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Future Networked Car: V2V Veers into Crazytown

by Roger Lanctot | 3月 08, 2019

Car makers, tech companies and wireless carriers are on a path to introduce inter-vehicle communications capable of providing additional data to help prevent collisions and complement automated driving. Unfortunately some politicians, regulators and one large auto maker keep getting in the way.

A fantastic panel discussion was put on at the Future Networked Car Symposium by the International Telecommunications Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s World Forum for Harmonization of Regulations (WP.29) in connection with the Geneva International Motor Show. The panel captured perfectly the conundrum facing car makers hoping to bring inter-vehicle communications to the market.

Panel members included:

·      Johannes Springer, CTO Connected Car, T-Systems, 5GAA

·      Teodor Buburuzan, Device Connectivity/Connected Car (EECP/3), Volkswagen

·      Onn Haran, CTO, Autotalks

·      Dino Flore, Vice President of Technology, Qualcomm

·      Marjorie Dickman, Associate General Counsel, Intel

·      Eddy Hartog, Head of Smart Mobility and Living unit, EC/DG-CNECT

·      Moderator: Russ Shields, CEO Ygomi

The European Parliament is requiring decades old Wi-Fi-based dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) technology to be used for so-called ITS applications. ITS applications generally revolve around safety, traffic management and both inter-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications – think traffic lights talking to cars.

DSRC (in the U.S.) and ITS-G5 (in the E.U.) use the same wireless spectrum and very similar protocols. (Japan uses different spectrum for the same applications - though is considering aligning with the E.U. and U.S.) The U.S. came close to mandating that DSRC technology be built into all cars, but the initiative did not move forward, as the U.S. Department of Transportation under Secretary Elaine Chao recognized the rapid advancement in communications technology and chose a technology neutral path instead.

The E.U. continued on the path to a mandate but, as in the U.S., enthusiasm for ITS-G5 waned in Europe as interest in current 4G technology and the onset of 5G technology waxed. The rise of 4G/LTE-V2X AND 5G-V2X, together so-called C-V2X technology (LTE and, soon, 5G-based wireless communications using a PC5 interface capable of direct device-to-device communications sans network) has upended the impetus for adopting ITS-G5/DSRC.

C-V2X also will enable V2X capabilities in all future wireless devices from phones to cars to infrastructure. The forces arrayed behind 5G have been sufficiently convincing to push Ford Motor Company and Audi AG firmly into the C-V2X camp – along with most other auto makers poised to follow.

Volkswagen (and, to some degree, Toyota, in the U.S.) stands alone as the sole remaining auto maker advocate for ITS-G5. That lonely advocacy is having sway in Brussels where the vote on the so-called Delegated Act is set to take place March 15.* As written, the Delegated Act will have the effect of requiring that car makers selling cars in Europe implement DSRC/ITS-G5 technology for ITS priority services (think: safety and traffic efficiency). 

If companies want to implement C-V2X (despite LTE-V2X being available immediately), they will have to wait until after the Delegated Act is adopted, attempt to add it at a later date through a revision process, and be backwards compatible with DSRC technology in order to ensure interoperability. Interestingly, there is no requirement that DSRC be interoperable thereby creating a de facto DSRC mandate. This apparent mandate locks Europe into older, inferior technology intended to save lives.

Rather than following the U.S. (and China’s) forward looking policy direction which is steadily shifting its ITS applications to cellular-based solutions such as C-V2X and 5G, the E.U. appears determined to dig in its heels and insist on the use of an inferior 20-year old technological solution guaranteed to add cost and complexity to every car sold in Europe – with no prospect of a single life saved for 20 years or more.

This isn’t the first time the E.U. has gone astray in its pursuit of saving lives. Car makers to this day are having to cope with an unnecessary and outdated eCall mandate that has burdened car makers, consumers and municipalities with an expensive outdated technology for a very limited investment return.

In the case of eCall as in the case of ITS-G5, the preferred path forward ought to be characterized by technology neutrality and market-driven decision making. Regulators and politicians are in no position to pick technological winners. But, sadly, the European Parliament appears poised to do just that should it vote affirmatively on the Delegated Act.

The irony is that Volkswagen, of all car makers - a sanctioned violator of EU regulations - continues to have influence and continues to insist on the adoption of ITS-G5 technology. Volkswagen’s largest market is China which has utterly shunned ITS-G5 in favor of 5G.

For Volkswagen, the EU and European consumers it’s a hard left turn into crazytown. This is an off-ramp for V2V adoption that is likely to cost lives, slow the adoption of 5G and impede the penetration of additional life-saving technologies in the automotive sector.

It’s not too late. It’s never too late. Until the fateful votes are cast. We’ve seen politicians make massive missteps before on both sides of the Atlantic and throughout the world. This one is avoidable – let’s put on the brakes NOW.

* The European Commission sends the Designated Act to the European Parliament (TRAN Committee) on March 13th. The Committee is likely to decide on March 15th during its next session. Two things can happen: 1) They vote a “statement of objection” in which case it is sent to the entire EP for a vote; or 2) they go with it and nothing happens, the DA passes – a vote is not required if there is no objection. The Council (28 Member States) also ought to agree to the DA but a “No” vote is unlikely.

 
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