On July 4th, 2019, twenty-one of the twenty-eight European Union (EU) countries voted against a European Commission plan that would have effectively shut out 4G/5G cellular communications as an option for vehicle-to-everything (V2X). This decision gives cellular V2X (C-V2X) a major boost.
V2X works to allow traffic elements (such as vehicles, roadside infrastructures, networks, and pedestrians) to communicate with each other. Dynamic interactions between these traffic elements provide the promise of safe, intelligent, and autonomous driving. Europe has been working to standardize V2X for the past 10 years. As part of that work, the Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) issued a recommendation and decision in 2008 to support intelligent transport systems (ITS) in the 5.9GHz band. That same year, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) allocated 30 MHz of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band for ITS. Thereafter, the global automotive industry worked on the development of a Wi-Fi based solution to support V2X referred to as dedicated short-range communications (DSRC).
C-V2X emerged later as a competitor to the Wi-Fi based DSRC and has caused debate by implementors and regulators in different regions of the world as to whether one or both V2X implementation options should be supported. The third-generation partnership project (3GPP), the organization that defines global cellular communication standards, is leading the development efforts of the competing C-V2X. The initial C-V2X implementation relies on LTE (4G) networks, but support for 5G networks is already underway.
Members of the automobile and tech industries have been split for several years on whether to use the Wi-Fi based DSRC or cellular based V2X technology in connected cars. General Motors, NXP, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo are in favor of DSRC, while BMW, Daimler, Ford, Huawei, Intel, Qualcomm, and Samsung are backing C-V2X. Their debate has dragged on so long that the initial argument in favor of Wi-Fi — that it was ready to deploy while C-V2X was not — may no longer be a tenable argument given the progression of C-V2X in the interim. C-V2X camps have recently brought up concerns about investing in “soon-to-be outdated” Wi-Fi technology given the ascendance of 5G and the superior performance it offers. By comparison, C-V2X can use the same 5.9 GHz radio channel as DSRC, while offering higher-bandwidth together with superior range, reliability, and latency.
5G C-V2X will support lossless data transfers between vehicles traveling up to 500 kilometers per hour, even at distances of over 450 meters, and benefit from the deployment of numerous 5G towers, which Wi-Fi does not (and will not) have without separate investments. Additionally, while numerous future improvements are already being planned for the 5G C-V2X standard, DSRC does not have a path forward from where it is today.
Even though the debate among the members of the automobile and tech industries continues, the vote by twenty-one EU countries against a European Commission plan that would have effectively shut out 4G/5G cellular car links by mandating the use of DSRC in cars has given a boost to C-V2X. This decision opens the door for car manufactures to support C-V2X in Europe but does not preclude support for DSRC as well. In the end, the purpose of V2X remains the same — to enhance safety, traffic flow, and convenience through increased communication between cars and infrastructure. However, the decision by EU legislators cannot be minimized. Their decision serves to level the playing field between the two competing technologies that support V2X, hopefully allowing the one with superior performance in terms of providing for critical enhancements like transportation safety to win out in the industry instead of one chosen by legislative default.
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