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Cellular V2X Communications Unlock Automotive Autonomy with Path to 5G

by Roger Lanctot | Feb 27, 2017

Qualcomm is a key common thread throughout industry momentum

In the emerging world of smarter and more automated cars, communication technology is playing a prominent and active role. Vehicle connectivity has evolved from just reporting emergency crash notifications to helping prevent crashes and supporting automated driving – all examples of the expanded role of wireless connections in automotive.

The larger role of communications is subject to rapid development and testing in the onset of 5G wireless technology. For the first time, car companies and the wireless ecosystem are closely collaborating, in forums such as the 5G Automotive Association, to help define and test the protocols and specifications that will transform vehicle connectivity. Suffice it to say that commercial entities all over the world are rolling out tests of 5G technology for an increasing variety of applications virtually all of which align on the objective of automated driving.

Most prominent among organizations fostering this development activity is 5GAA, which has grown to dozens of members within just a few months. The group is working to solve the challenges associated with the deployment of vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technologies, including vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle to-pedestrian (V2P), as well as the roadway infrastructure to enable vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications. 5GAA will collaborate with the relevant standards organizations (3GPP, ETSI, Car-to-Car) to drive requirements for 5G V2X, create a successful C-V2X ecosystem, and establish a framework for compliance testing.

A number of market developments have surfaced from the collaboration between automotive and wireless stakeholders to accelerate activity around C-V2X and 5G, including the emergence of car sharing and ride hailing services and the coincident focus in self-driving car innovation. The answers to traffic challenges and new business opportunities both reside in the evolution of wireless technology towards 5G technology. It is cellular technology, including C-V2X and 5G, that will introduce the ubiquitous, high capacity and low latency connectivity required to enable new car applications, increased safety and automated driving - along with monetization opportunities. C-V2X technology is expected to enhance existing Radar, Lidar and camera sensor technologies via sensor fusion.

At the core of this new connectivity environment is C-V2X direct communications, the V2V, V2I and V2P aspect of C-V2X which is gaining momentum and a growing ecosystem. This new radio, operating in the 5.9GHz ITS band and without dependencies on network infrastructure, leverages upper layer stacks developed and refined by the automotive industry over the last decade in SAE, ETSI, IEEE and ISO.

C-V2X direct communications complement the capabilities of other car sensors by providing 360-degree non-line-of sight awareness, extending a vehicle’s ability to “see” and “hear” further down the road – even at blind intersections or in bad weather conditions. By complementing other sensors, C-V2X provides higher levels of predictability and offers deterministic information by conveying location, speed, direction, and even intent – information that other on-board sensors can only try to estimate at best. Through its improved range, reliability and non-line-of-sight performance, the initial release of C-V2X supports enhanced safety use cases, such as left turn assistance, do-not-pass warnings, and curve over-speed warnings - even at high vehicle speeds and in inclement or otherwise challenging environments.

The C-V2X evolution, including an evolution path to 5G New Radio (NR) technology, is spurring the creation of new test initiatives throughout the world, including the “Towards 5G” initiative in France and the Connected Vehicle to Everything of Tomorrow (ConVeX) consortium in Germany.

The Towards 5G trial brings together car maker PSA, wireless network operator Orange, network gear provider Ericsson, and was recently joined by Qualcomm. Participants note that the trial demonstrates how C-V2X, based on specifications from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project’s (3GPP) Release 14, can support safety and other advanced use cases toward the development of autonomous driving. Trial plans from the Towards 5G initiative include using the direct communication features of C-V2X to test vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle- to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) capabilities.

The group will assess the enhanced performance brought by C-V2X with regards to direct communication range, latency and reliability over the 5.9GHz ITS band. The Towards 5G initiative members will also help develop new use cases to evaluate how C-V2X with 5G NR features will be designed to support advanced applications, including traffic flow optimization, advanced safety use cases and automated driving.

For its part, in January 2017, the ConVeX consortium announced field trials based on 3GPP Release 14, testing C-V2X on motorways and roadways in Germany with consortium partners Qualcomm, Audi, Ericsson, Swarco Traffic Systems, and the University of Kaiserslautern. ConVeX is funded by the participants and the German Federal Ministry of Transportation and Digital Infrastructure with the goal of creating the Cellular-V2X trial, which includes V2X communication. Like Towards 5G, the goal of ConVeX is to showcase C-V2X range, reliability and latency.

Both trials aim to highlight new use cases supporting improved safety, traffic flow optimization and enhance the capabilities that will lead to automated driving. The goal is to evaluate radio communication performance and user experiences under real traffic conditions while using upper layer stacks developed by the auto industry in ETSI-ITS. 

Qualcomm is a key common thread throughout these testing, specification and technology development efforts that bring together wireless carriers, infrastructure suppliers and car companies. The broad range of efforts reflects the strong evolutionary path to 5G taking shape in the commercial market and spanning many industries including automotive. 

To accelerate the availability of C-V2X commercial solutions, Qualcomm is also working with tier-1 automotive suppliers and has announced just prior to Mobile World Congress 2017 a collaboration with LG Electronics to facilitate the testing and adoption of 5G and Cellular-V2X communication technology in vehicles. Both companies expect to showcase these next-generation wireless technologies in trials during the first half of 2018.

LG is already developing vehicle solutions using Qualcomm’s connected car platform, featuring support for Gigabit LTE speeds using the Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, and complemented by the QCA65x4 Wi-Fi 802.11ac solution. The solution also supports 802.11p/DSRC and Cellular-V2X based on 3GPP Release 14 standards.

At Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm is also demonstrating its C-V2X direct communications trial platform based upon 3GPP Release 14, showing enhanced driving safety in three use cases – disabled car after blind curve, do-not-pass and road hazard warnings.

Qualcomm’s goal in demonstrating these solutions is to emphasize the multi-layered aspect of C-V2X connectivity. Using network-based communications via traditional cellular infrastructure (vehicle-to-network), as well as direct communications operating in the 5.9GHz ITS band for V2V, V2I and V2P, C-V2X combining the capabilities of roadside units and the cellular network to help improve safety and support autonomy through local- and wide-area road condition information and real-time map updates. All of these elements provide a strong evolutionary path to 5G with backwards compatibility.

The C-V2X evolution towards 5G NR is gaining momentum, with work underway to define use cases and performance metrics for 3GPP Releases 15 and 16 around see-through capabilities, cooperative driving, high throughput sensor sharing and real-time HD map updates. The most exciting aspect of this evolution to 5G technology is the emergence of new use cases with cars directly communicating and sharing both urgent road hazard information while also enabling the sharing of vehicle sensor data. 

The sharing of sensor data will allow cars to communicate locally and regionally such aspects as road surface conditions, visibility, availability of parking spaces, traffic conditions and precipitation while also enabling software and map updates. Given the Towards 5G trials previously referred to, this could even include the sharing of high-bandwidth data from camera, Radar and LiDar sensors. Substantial benefits will come when this shared data can be fed into the vehicle’s control algorithms.

Eventually, 5G services will become high demand applications that enable consumers to further improve their lives, while both keeping them safe and bring about new revolutions in business offerings. Qualcomm says it is hoping not only to facilitate the testing of new protocols, standards and specifications but also to speed the delivery of these new life-saving applications to the market.

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