C-V2X Nets Its First US Deployment

Development Is a Milestone in the Roll-Out of Intelligent Transport Systems

Cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology, which is based on the 3GPP standard that enables communication between vehicles and their environment and which is a core building block for intelligent transportation systems, took another step forward earlier in June.

Panasonic, Qualcomm and Ford have begun a strategic collaboration to deploy the technology in Colorado. This builds on Panasonic’s CityNow smart cities initiative, also based in Colorado, and the state’s RoadX smart roads project.

The move heralds the first deployment of C-V2X in the US. Roll-out will initially start on roads in Panasonic’s CityNow campus site, before being extended to include a stretch of the public highway known as the I-70 Mountain Corridor, which has become something of a byword for traffic congestion. The road is a major headache for the Colorado Department of Transportation, as it connects the state capital and international airport in Denver, to the economically important recreational areas in the Rocky Mountains. So, the C-V2X deployment holds out the prospect of considerable reward if it can help contribute to traffic efficiency and increased safety.

The deployment, and the subsequent evaluation, won’t be limited to C-V2X; it will also include dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), the competing Wi-Fi-based V2X communications protocol. The state authority plans to build on the nine intelligent roadside units already in use, bringing the number to 245 within two and a half years and covering 500 miles of highway by 2023.

Although the roll-out is happening in Colorado, it has broader implications for the evolution of a C-V2X ecosystem. European suppliers are heavily involved in the project: the roadside units will be provided by Austrian manufacturer Kapsch TraffiCom; the on-board aftermarket C-V2X devices, with which the department aims to equip 2,000 of its own Ford utility vehicles, will be provided by Spanish tier-one automotive supplier, Ficosa, in which Panasonic has a 69 percent stake. The state will also explore arrangements with other organisations to extend this to 10,000 vehicles by 2020.

Further evidence of progress for C-V2X comes in the form of an announcement by Hungarian intelligent transport systems manufacturer, Commsignia, that it intends to make white-label roadside and on-board units based on Qualcomm’s 9150 C-V2X chipset, and a similar commitment by US roadside unit maker, Savari, that it will use the same Qualcomm chipset to incorporate C-V2X alongside DSRC in its line of units. These product announcements mean that road operators don’t have to take the risk of picking the wrong technology. Instead, they should deploy these dual-radio roadside units when spending public money, also allowing them to remain technology-neutral.

A few weeks earlier, Ford reported the successful conclusion of its C-V2X tests in Detroit with Qualcomm and trials in Shanghai, carried out jointly with Chinese manufacturer of telecom equipment, Datang, at the city’s National Intelligent Vehicle Pilot Zone. The results, available here, highlighted the superiority of C-V2X direct communications.

Another minor but significant achievement for C-V2X was the announcement in early June by a Cadillac spokesperson that the GM brand would use “the best technology available at the time” when it makes V2X communications more widely available in 2023. Until now, GM has been thought to be firmly in the camp of the rival DSRC technology for vehicle-to-vehicle communications, so the news represents a softening of its position and a hint that it is moving toward a more agnostic stance on competing technologies to deliver safety services and support their autonomous vehicle platform. Momentum in 2018 is swinging in favour of C-V2X, and this is a welcome development in the connected car journey, as C-V2X is a feature of the cellular radio already being designed into vehicles for telematics and other connected car services.