Qualcomm Is Rallying Vendors to 5G Car-to-Car Networks

The idea of cars silently signaling each other through walls is as futuristic as it sounds, but many electronics suppliers want to get going on it as soon as possible.

On February 22, Qualcomm revealed a long list of companies looking to use its 9150 C-V2X chipset, which is due to be demonstrated this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and shipped commercially in the second half of this year. The list includes well-known names such as BMW, LG Electronics, Continental, Sierra Wireless and ZTE.

C-V2X, or cellular vehicle-to-anything, is a way to use cellular radios in cars to communicate with other vehicles, pedestrians’ phones, and roadway infrastructure such as traffic signals and warning signs. One use of C-V2X would be to notify cars approaching a blind intersection that there’s a speeding vehicle around the corner that’s about to run a red light.

It’s important for many different suppliers to join in on a technology like C-V2X, because it can’t deliver benefits like safety unless a lot of things use the same system. Vendors from different industries all need to sign on.

C-V2X uses 5G technology and is designed as one element of a complex set of sensors and networks, including Lidar and radar, that may someday keep self-driving cars informed about everything around them. Before that, C-V2X might help to keep manually driven vehicles from crashing into each other.

Automotive wireless networks such as C-V2X are starting to overcome the limits of human vision and robotic line of sight. With wireless signaling, cars can virtually see each other even where drivers can’t and respond appropriately. In the example of the red-light runner at a blind corner, vehicles approaching the intersection could automatically brake or warn drivers to brake. If the traffic light had the right wireless radio, it might send a warning to the oncoming car or even stop it from running the red.

C-V2X isn’t the only way to make all this work. There’s also a wireless LAN standard related to WiFi that’s used in technologies such as WLANp and Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC). Volkswagen Group announced earlier this month that it would equip all its European cars with WLANp beginning next year. The US government has been pushing DSRC for several years. Qualcomm also has products in this category.

But Qualcomm says it has a global ecosystem of automakers, component suppliers, software companies and system integrators committed to C-V2X and the 9150 chipset. They include participants in China, South Korea, Japan, Germany, France and the US.

One of the selling points for C-V2X is that it could build on the 5G mobile ecosystem and take advantage of carriers’ cellular networks. In addition to direct wireless links among cars and nearby infrastructure like signs, C-V2X can connect cars to the larger cellular network. Those vehicle-to-network links could be used for services like traffic and hazard warnings, locations of parking spots, and streaming information and entertainment.

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

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