V2X Mainstream – Are We There Yet?

There are five reasons why recent auto industry actions for vehicle-to-everything radio technology are so monumental. WSP USA’s Steve Kuciemba explains.

Recently the automotive industry – as communicated through the Alliance for Automotive Innovation – announced a build-out commitment for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) radio technology.

The Alliance quickly followed this announcement with a proposed band plan, encouraging both cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) and dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) to coexist in the 5.9 GHz spectrum.

To those of us in the business of providing safe and reliable transportation services, these two announcements come during a period of great uncertainty as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed giving away a large portion of the 5.9 GHz band currently set-aside for transportation communications.

A broad coalition of safety experts and organizations have come out strongly in opposition to the FCC’s proposal, but a frequent argument against them has been the pace of market development. We’ve been missing that “one big thing.”

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©GETTY IMAGES/METAMORWORKS

There are five reasons why recent auto industry actions for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) radio technology are so monumental.

SPaT Challenge

Over the past several years, infrastructure owners and operators have taken several steps to advance the state of development for roadside connected vehicle technology. Through the national SPaT Challenge, a combination of state and local agencies have sought to learn from pilot deployments of DSRC by broadcasting signal phase and timing (SPaT) messages in the industry-accepted SAE J 2735 format.

Some states have even taken more aggressive actions to begin large-scale deployment projects in major cities, or are working with private partners to rapidly advance development of data management systems that will eventually handle large amounts of connected vehicle data. But the hanging threat from the FCC to remove the dedicated spectrum – coupled with technical uncertainty surrounding rapidly developing new cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology – has kept the momentum from spreading significantly faster.

Some connected vehicle applications have continued to advance - such as truck platooning, but in general the biggest advancements have been more foundational in nature: standards development, high profile proof-of-concept tests and federally funded research projects.

Missing in all this has been a large-scale commitment from the automotive industry. In 2017 the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) proposed a regulation that would require installation of V2X in new vehicles, and General Motors appeared to be starting the momentum with voluntary deployment. And in 2018 Toyota stepped up with a similar announcement soon after.

But a new USDOT administration came in and put the regulation on the back burner, and inhibiting messages from the FCC caused General Motors and Toyota to pump the brakes on voluntary deployment. Instead, we entered a new decade with only Ford pledging to increase C-V2X, and a mountain of uncertainty surrounding V2X in general.

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©2020 WSP USA

WSP USA configures the connected vehicle controller during testing of vehicle-to-everything technology at the Mcity facility at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Why the Auto Industry Actions for V2X are So Monumental

The recent announcement from the Alliance of Automotive Innovation is significant on many fronts, most notably in seeing a consensus among the automakers, finally speaking through a single voice. Here are a few thoughts on why this is a big deal:

#1 - Regulatory Certainty
If these actions by the automotive industry help convince the FCC to back away from its proposal to reallocate the 5.9 GHz spectrum, we will finally have an environment where regulatory uncertainty is no longer a barrier to deployment. For the past several years we have faced the possibility that the FCC will take away the valuable spectrum set aside for V2X communications – resulting in conservative steps toward V2X deployment instead of bold leaping actions.

#2 - Device Costs Will Drop and Technology Stabilization Will Occur
Onboard units and roadside units that are designed to either provide DSRC or C-V2X are currently not in mainstream production, due in large part to the demand being stalled by regulatory uncertainty. If device manufacturers now feel some steadiness with the market, we can expect to see dramatic ramp-up in production, price reductions, technical stability, and resources for customer support.

#3 - Increased Deployment
If devices become more price-responsive, available and stable – more deployment will likely occur. The five million V2X target from the Alliance could become an initial measure instead of a ceiling, and in the next five years we could potentially double or triple that number (or more). Infrastructure owners and operators could significantly ramp-up roadside deployments, opening the door to a significant number of new applications being developed. Market demand is often not linear – we must consider that cumulative changes in environment could dramatically alter expectations.

#4 - Short Term Benefits Realized
While it might take some time for the auto industry to integrate DSRC or C-V2X radios in new production vehicles, existing use-case scenarios could flourish. Truck platooning, fleet vehicle aftermarket installation, transit vehicle usage, emergency vehicle usage – those are just a few examples of low-hanging fruit waiting for the market to stabilize and will take off quickly. We could see immediate lives being saved as well as traffic congestion and air quality improvements well before the first automotive production vehicle rolls off the line.

#5 – Automated Vehicles and Connected Vehicles Come Together
The ongoing development of automated vehicle (AV) technology – whether it be realized through robo-taxi services, low-speed shuttles, long-haul truck following or other use-case scenarios – will reap safety benefits from the addition of connected vehicle (CV) technology. In many instances the AV companies have been waiting for market stability before integrating CV devices into the mix, but this could change the equation and make what is already a promising service safer and more efficient through the integration of CV communications.

The bottom line here is that product development and market evolution is typically not linear. It might seem logical to plug a number into an equation and say that five million V2X deployments aren’t enough. But the action taken by the automotive industry will likely trigger actions that won’t be sequential and could be the tipping point to realizing life-saving technology sooner rather than later.

References

About the Author
Steve Kuciemba, national intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and connected and automated vehicle (C/AV) practice leader with WSP USA, has more than three decades of executive leadership experience in both the public and private sectors. His background includes infrastructure-related ITS deployment, C/AV planning and systems development, coordination of incident management and transportation management centers, travel information business models, policy development and legislative outreach activities.

About WSP
WSP is at the forefront of the development and testing of transportation infrastructure for connected and automated vehicles and is currently advising transportation agencies across the globe on the development and implementation of infrastructure and policies to proactively plan for future mobility. The firm’s comprehensive capabilities with respect to connected and automated vehicles are presented at www.advancingtransport.com. To find out what we can do for you, contact us at [email protected]

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