Industry Insights

5G Pushes C-V2X Toward the Fast Lane

2020-07-31  |  4 min read 

Much like augmented reality, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications is an example of a technology that has been around for years that is expected to come into its own in the 5G New Radio (NR) era.

V2X boosts automotive safety and efficiency by enabling vehicles to communicate with other vehicles, roadside infrastructure, and so-called "venerable road users" — pedestrians, bicyclists, etc. The concept is reasonably intuitive — enabling an automobile to communicate with other vehicles and the rest of the traffic system facilitates the exchange of traffic information, road conditions, the location of pedestrians, and all manner of data to make road travel safer.

Believe it or not, V2X has been around for two decades. Until the last few years, V2X technology mostly utilized dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), short- to medium-range wireless communications channels dedicated to vehicles. The biggest hurdle to the widespread adoption of V2X has been the limited proliferation of DSRC. Simply put, not many cars are equipped with DRSC technology. The same goes for stoplights, bridges, and other features of the traffic infrastructure. And V2X can only be effective if it is in widespread use. The ability to communicate does not do a car much good if there aren't other cars and systems that speak the same language.

Enter cellular V2X (C-V2X), first standardized in the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)'s Release 14. While a few vehicles equipped with LTE-based C-V2X have begun to hit the market, the real shift (no pun intended) comes with the proliferation of 5G.

That's because 3GPP Release 16 — completed earlier this month — and Release 17 — currently scheduled for completion in late 2021 — will bring new functionality to C-V2X. Enhancements that strengthen 5G's ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) are at the top of this list.

Overall, these enhancements will enable C-V2X to reach its true potential by facilitating real-time sharing of traffic information generated by sensor data for collective situational awareness and collision avoidance. Functionality that will be available in Release 17 is expected to support more complex use cases for C-V2X, including vehicle platooning and coordinated driving.

Release 16, which 3GPP froze in early July, includes enhancements to sidelink communications technology, which enables direct device-to-device communication. Sidelink communications is a crucial feature for C-V2X because it allows vehicles to share information and other elements of the road system independent of the network. In addition to latency improvement (when it comes to collision avoidance, every split second counts), sidelink enables the use of C-V2X technology in remote areas that lack network infrastructure or cellular service. Sidelink is also an essential precursor for future autonomous driving applications that rely on C-V2X.

Thanks to enhancements contained in the 5G standard — some completed, some still on the way — C-V2X is well on its way from niche technology to mainstream over the next few years. Watch this space. 

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