C-2VX Is Finally Gaining Momentum in the U.S.

Cellular-V2X communications offers major safety benefits by extending situational awareness beyond the line of sight.

The C-V2X technical challenge is amplified at intersections where the streets don’t meet at 90-degree angles. (Hans J. Brehm/WikiCommons)

Vehicle to everything (V2X) communications has had a rough go in North America. After more than a decade of development on the Wi-Fi-based dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology – and an aborted attempt to mandate it from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – the Federal Communications Commission pulled the plug in late 2020. Instead, the auto industry has now turned its attention to cellular-V2X (C-V2X) with promising new pilot projects.

The 2017-2019 Cadillac CTS was the only vehicle ever launched in North America with DSRC. Toyota abandoned a plan to start launching the technology across its lineup in 2021, after no other automaker stepped up to follow suit. C-V2X uses the same messaging standards on top of LTE (4G long-term evolution) and 5G-based wireless technologies. Unlike devices such as smartphones, C-V2X devices can communicate directly without going through a carrier network, sharing locally relevant information in real time.

This has the potential to provide major safety benefits by extending situational awareness beyond the line of sight to which human eyes and vehicle sensors are limited. I’ve long been an advocate of incorporating V2X as part of the sensing and perception suite for automated driving systems (ADS). There is the obvious benefit of being able to coordinate operations such as vehicle platooning. However, even with the most advanced sensors available to ADS developers, X-ray vision still is not in the cards for ADS.

C-V2X has been used by ADS developers including Baidu in China for some time. Recently, Ford and Argo AI began installing a series of connected smart sensor pods at intersections in Miami where the companies have done much of their ADS testing over the past several years. In dense urban areas where buildings are often situated a mere sidewalk-width from the curb, visibility is limited when approaching intersections. This challenge is even more amplified at intersections where the streets don’t meet at 90-degree angles.

The Ford sensor pods which were first tested in fall 2020 in conjunction with another subsidiary, Quantum Signal, contain cameras, radar, lidar and C-V2X radios. As Argo AVs approach a sensor-equipped intersection, the pods provide information about potential hazards that may be approaching from the cross street. This allows the AV to make decisions sooner. It also reduces the likelihood of having to make abrupt decisions only after the AV sees a hazard from its sensors, providing a smoother and safer ride.

In Las Vegas, Motional has been using DSRC roadside units (RSU) to get traffic signal information for several years. Motional has now partnered with Derq to install camera and V2X pods that will initially collect data used for simulation purposes. Over time, the pods will transmit information directly to the fleet of Motional AVs.

Audi has been one of the leading OEMs working with Qualcomm to test C-V2X in pilots in Colorado as well as Virginia, where it was evaluated at highway construction zones to alert drivers to the presence of workers. More recently, Audi has partnered with two Georgia communities. In Peachtree Corners, C-V2X is being deployed in RSUs and municipal utility vehicles while in Alpharetta, school buses are getting C-V2X radios. With the first production applications of C-V2X in the U.S. expected as soon as 2022, the age of connected vehicles may finally be arriving.