BMW, Ericsson & Vodafone Pushing C-V2X Adoption in EU

BMW, Ericsson and Vodafone are warning European Union policymakers that an upcoming decision on wireless networks for connected cars could leave 5G behind — and Europe out of step.

A legislative proposal in the works at the European Commission rules out the use of C-V2X, a system that uses cellular technology for wireless communications among cars, roadway infrastructure and other road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, according to a November 14 post on an Ericsson blog.

The law would identify only one system, called ITS-G5 and based on technology similar to WiFi, for so-called vehicle-to-everything (V2X) networks. Leaving out C-V2X would go against the EC’s pledge in 2016 to take a hybrid approach to the technologies, and it would be a serious mistake, the companies say.

The post, co-authored by executives from Europe’s biggest mobile equipment company, one of the world’s largest carriers, and a major automaker, is the latest salvo in a battle over how to connect vehicles to data communications that could prevent crashes and congestion and someday improve self-driving cars.

Governments and some manufacturers have spent years testing and preparing for connected-car networks based on IEEE 802.11p, a standard closely related to WiFi. In 1999, the US government set aside radio spectrum for one of these systems, called Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC). But it’s still only available in a few cars, such as the Cadillac CTS. C-V2X was developed more recently and standardized under the 3GPP, which oversees cellular specifications such as 4G and 5G. It’s expected to come out commercially in 2019 or 2020.

Both systems are designed to let cars exchange data about their speed, direction and other factors, allowing for things like a signal that warns oncoming vehicles about a stalled car over the next hill. That signal could trigger a warning to the driver or automatic braking. The systems might also be included in cellphones to make cars aware of nearby pedestrians or cyclists.

Because the systems are built on completely different technologies, radios for one won’t be able to network with those using the other, though Israeli silicon startup Autotalks says it has developed a dual-mode chipset.

BMW and Ericsson, along with backers such as Ford, Groupe PSA and Qualcomm, have been on the front lines for C-V2X, which they say will be able to take advantage of widespread cellular networks and better, faster technologies coming in 5G. Other automakers, including Volkswagen, Toyota and General Motors, plan to deploy WiFi-related systems.

“We are concerned that we are headed for a Delegated Act that would effectively lock the automotive ecosystem into old Wi-Fi technology,” the Ericsson blog post said.

C-V2X proponents say tests show their system has better reliability, non-line-of-sight performance and resiliency to interference. But technical superiority isn’t the only reason to embrace — or at least include — the cellular technology, they say.

China is betting big on C-V2X, and the US is now vowing to be technology-neutral and open to C-V2X if the market goes that direction. If EU law prescribes only ITS-G5, European automakers could end up shut off from innovation and forced to build in different systems for markets inside and outside Europe, they claim.

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

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