Autotalks’ Dual-Mode Chipset Could Give Car-to-Car Wireless a Boost

A new chipset that supports both major systems for wireless communication between cars might get automakers to start including the technology, which is designed to improve safety and reduce congestion.

Automakers and governments agree that having a way for cars to talk to each other and to roadway infrastructure, such as sensors and signals, should help to prevent accidents and keep traffic running smoothly. But there are two standard protocols for this type of communication and no consensus on which is best.

Autotalks, an Israel-based silicon vendor, announced a chipset on September 5 that can use both systems: Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) and cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X). Autotalks claims it’s the first one with that capability. The chipset can be switched from one to the other through software alone, according to the company.

A chipset built for both protocols could slash the cost of equipping cars for V2X because automakers could use the same component around the world. This could improve economies of scale and also save manufacturers from having to test and certify different parts for different markets.

DSRC, based on the same set of standards used in WiFi (specifically, IEEE 802.11p), has been in existence for years but has yet to be widely deployed in cars or infrastructure. Governments in the US, Europe and Japan have supported DSRC, and Toyota and Volkswagen plan to include it in many vehicles. C-V2X, or PC5, is based on standards set by the 3GPP, which oversees 4G, and is designed to become compatible with 5G. Ford, BMW and other companies have demonstrated C-V2X. The jury is still out on adoption: The US Department of Transportation, for one, announced it won’t pick winners.

Autotalks is a specialist in V2X chipsets and isn’t new to the field. Earlier this year, Hyundai invested an undisclosed sum in the company. The new, dual-mode chipset is the second generation of Autotalks’ previous product, which was strictly for DSRC.

It uses the same API as the previous generation, allowing for a shorter time to market for manufacturers, the company says.

Autotalks claims the product has higher performance and more advanced cybersecurity than other V2X chipsets. The component can operate independently of the cellular connection a car uses for infotainment, so its performance won’t be compromised, the company announced.

Wireless V2X communication is designed to help cars share warnings and take in real-time information from nearby infrastructure. For example, if a car is about to run a red light at a blind intersection, vehicles approaching around the corner could get a signal that would trigger automatic braking or a brake alert to the driver. Also, a stalled car blocking a lane could send out a signal so drivers coming around a bend would be warned.

Infrastructure such as traffic lights and speed-limit signs may also communicate with cars on the road. V2X capabilities may also be added to smartphones so pedestrians and cyclists can automatically signal their presence to motor vehicles.

These capabilities are likely to become even more important for autonomous vehicles. Information from other cars can supplement an AV’s own built-in sensors, such as Lidar, radar and cameras, with information about cars and road conditions much farther from the vehicle.

— Stephen Lawson is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @sdlawsonmedia.

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