Navigant Research Blog

Road Tests to Provide Critical Vehicle Communications Data

John Gartner — February 2, 2017

There are several projects launching in 2017 expected to generate data that will lead to a future where vehicles talk both to each other and to infrastructure. This shift would not only increase safety, but also ease traffic congestion within range. Leading chipmakers, automakers, and communications companies are teaming up in field trials and in co-development of vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technologies.

The US Department of Transportation paved the way for vehicle communications standards by developing the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, No. 150, on vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Published in the Federal Register in January 2017, the proposed standard would require manufacturers to install dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) radios into new vehicles within the next 4-5 years.

January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was the launchpad for several announcements on V2X communications. AT&T, Delphi, and Ford are co-developing a platform to enable vehicles to communicate with each other as well as infrastructure to enhance vehicle safety and security and reduce traffic congestion. The platform will use AT&T’s LTE cellular network to expand communications beyond the shorter range DSRC communications, which are based on a variant of Wi-Fi.

Also at CES, Audi, Ericsson, Qualcomm, SWARCO Traffic Systems, and the University of Kaiserslautern announced they were collaborating on the Connected Vehicle to Everything of Tomorrow project. The project is also a V2X trial, this time using the 3rd Generation Partnership Project’s Release 14 standard. It will include 4G and 5G LTE communications between vehicles and with infrastructure and pedestrians.

Sales of light duty vehicles with built-in DSRC in North America are expected to surpass 20 million annually by 2023, while sales of vehicles with 5G communications are expected to top 1 million annually by 2025, according to Navigant Research’s recently published Connected Vehicles report.

Connected Light Duty Vehicle Sales by Communications Type, North America: 2020-2025

(Source: Navigant Research)

Communications Innovations

Chipmaker Intel is expanding its automotive profile with products for both in-vehicle and external communications. Also at CES, Intel announced the Intel GO automotive and 5G platforms. The 5G platform “allows automakers to develop and test a broad range of 5G use cases and applications.” Intel’s solution will enable environmental and traffic data to be brought into the vehicle to be processed by the company’s internal chips to enhance the safety and efficiency of automated vehicle driving functions.

In January, the Volkswagen Group announced that it would be adding 5G capability to future I.D. electric vehicles to assist the company’s automated driving features. According to HybridCars.com, the faster communications will be used in vehicles beginning in 2020.

Collecting field data on how communications from infrastructure can enhance vehicle safety and performance is also the aim of a consortium in Singapore. The NTU-NXP Smart Mobility Consortium is developing a test bed using 50 vehicles and 35 data collection units along roadways that will capture video of vehicle activities on the campus of Nanyang Technological University. The project will relay information to the vehicles about driving conditions, traffic signals, and parking availability to enable drivers to make effective navigation decisions.

The Road Ahead

To approach full self-driving capability, automated vehicles will increasingly rely on data broadcast via DSRC and 5G from other vehicles and infrastructure to monitor traffic flow and alert the vehicles of potentially dangerous situations. The next few years will be spent analyzing the data from collaborations and road tests formed in 2017 to understand the efficiency and responsiveness of automated vehicles in a variety of real-world situations.

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