Automotive > Powertrain, Body, Chassis & Safety Blog

C-V2X and Swarm Intelligence

by Roger Lanctot | Sep 07, 2020

We tend to think of driving as an individualistic and escapist pursuit. Whether it’s a trip to the grocery for a gallon of milk or a roadtrip to visit grandma, the open road beckons and the automobile obliges. But a new form of driving is emerging.

This new form of driving was first introduced by Waze, but its roots lie in a 20-year-old effort to allow cars to share information directly in the interest of creating what has come to be known as “swarm intelligence.” Wikipedia tells us that swarm intelligence is “the collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized systems, natural or artificial.” Think of a flock of birds or, better yet, a school of fish.

Birds, fish, ants, bees, antelope, bison have all evolved cooperative movement out of a combination of basic physics and pheromones to guide movement and avoid conflict and collisions. When driving we, too, are all participating in just such a decentralized, self-organizing system but our tools for achieving cooperative movement are rudimentary.  Judging from the 1.2M annual highway fatalities the tools we have are failing..

Technology is rapidly coming to the rescue in the form of so-called C-V2X, as in “talking cars.” As C-V2X technology makes its way into the market via wireless modems embedded in new cars, the stage is set for cars to communicate directly in real time their location, heading, and other critical information for improving traffic flow and reducing or avoiding collisions.

Today, drivers can communicate to one another actively or passively via the Waze navigation app. The app aggregates the location data from all of its users in order to compile and then transmit navigation guidance based on predictive traffic analytics. Waze users love the app because it appears to give them a view of the road ahead and allows for some on-the-fly planning, preparation for, or response to critical traffic information.

Waze has become something of a global standard for traffic information as a result of its ubiquitous presence in app stores and on smartphones. Waze is used by both professional drivers, regular consumers, and, increasingly, by city and state departments of transportation and radio and television broadcasters to interpret real-time traffic information.

The difference between Waze and C-V2X, though, is that Waze is reliant on vehicle-to-cloud-to-vehicle communications. C-V2X technology provides for direct communication of traffic, weather, and roadway conditions between road users in real time, nearly instantaneously.

The challenge, then, is to provide edge computing capabilities in cars capable of determining which information is urgent enough to share and transmit – i.e. to other cars or to “the cloud” – and how to interpret incoming information in the form of actionable insights for drivers. Waze may operate with a latency measured in seconds or one or two minutes. C-V2X is capable of millisecond communications intended to prioritize information of the greatest urgency potentially requiring immediate action by the driver.

This inter-vehicle communication capability is just beginning to arrive in markets stretching from China to the U.S. and the E.U. gliding in on the wings of C-V2X and 5G deployments – supported by regulators and standards-setting bodies. For the full value of C-V2X to be realized car makers, wireless carriers, semiconductor manufacturers, software developers, and car companies must come together to overcome the challenges inherent in aggregating and processing vehicle sensor data and exchanging that data with cloud servers. These same organizations must also work on the systems intended to interpret incoming C-V2X transmissions and convert the information to non-distracting, intuitive, and unambiguous guidance for drivers.

To learn more about the coming C-V2X revolution please listen to the UX Soup podcast episode – available September 8th – or register for the September 17th (4pm CEST) Reuters/Strategy Analytics Webinar with Mike Potts, Molex lead systems architect; Johannes Springer, T-Systems head of technology - connected car; and Chris Schreiner, Strategy Analytics head of in-vehicle consumer and UX research; and me, as moderator:

“V2X – A Roadmap for Saving Lives:” -

Cooperative driving enabled by C-V2X is coming to a new car near you sooner than you think.

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