C-V2X is the latest incarnation of so-called vehicle-to-everything (V2X), a communications technology that allows cars to “talk” to each other and infrastructure. The claimed advantage of this technology is that it can warn a driver of things beyond his or her line of sight. If a car is stopped at an intersection with poor visibility, it could, for example, pick up signals from other V2X-equipped cars or sensors mounted on nearby buildings to tell the driver if it’s okay to go.
Vehicles could also communicate with stoplights, telling drivers when a light is about to change. Audi already offers this in the form of its Traffic Light Information system. The system gives a countdown when a light is about to turn green, but it only works in a handful of cities (Audi also offers a built-in toll transponder that relies on V2X tech). Aptiv has placed sensors on traffic lights in Las Vegas to guide its self-driving cars, even when they’re onboard cameras don’t have a direct line of sight to the light.
Ford could take things even further, Butler wrote. C-V2X could be integrated with driver aids, like those in Ford’s recently introduced Co-Pilot360 suite. Or it could be added to self-driving cars. Emergency vehicles could be equipped with C-V2X transmitters, allowing cars to detect their presence and move out of the way.
The difference between the C-V2X tech embraced by Ford and previous systems is that it’s based on 5G. All other V2X systems to-date have used a competing setup called Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC). But that means Ford will have to rely on the smooth rollout of 5G. Even the deployment of DSRC-based V2X vehicles and infrastructure has been slow, and DSRC is based on a more familiar technology derived from Wi-Fi.
“A conducive regulatory environment must be in place for C-V2X to be deployed, which is why we are working just as much with industry and government organizations to create such a technology-neutral environment,” Butler wrote in his blog post. He also told Bloombergthat he hopes other automakers will adopt C-V2X alongside Ford. He added that C-V2X is a simpler solution because telecom companies are already spending billions on 5G cell towers and antennas, while DSRC would require a separate government investment.
Despite the potential hurdles, Qualcomm expects C-V2X and other related technologies to become a significant part of its business. The company believes that, within five years, 75% of cars will have some form of connectivity. A critical mass of vehicles will be needed to realize the technology’s full benefit since cars that aren’t equipped with C-V2X or similar systems can’t communicate with each other. The more vehicles on the network, the more effective it is.