Connected cars: ready for a smooth and safe ride

Monday 9 Oct 2017 | Public Consultation Response |

Policymakers across Europe are deliberating how best to realise the potential of self-driving cars. One key aspect is at the top of the agenda: which technology to choose for short-range communications between vehicles and with road infrastructure?

The potential of self-driving cars to revolutionise transportation is attracting an enormous amount of political attention in Europe. Member States are competing with each other to start the first large scale cross-border test site, there are declarations and MoUs signed all the time, while the Commission aims to roll out a Cooperative Intelligent Transport System (C-ITS) as of 2019. In the meantime, the EATA alliance between the telecoms and automotive industries is about to be formalised and the first 10 million euros of European funding has been granted.

All stakeholders want Europe to be a leader in connected and automated driving. While this technology may be deployed faster in China, the international regulatory cooperation on connected cars in Europe is unprecedented.

However, there is an important discussion going on about which technology to choose for the direct and short-range communications between cars, and with roadside infrastructure. There are two main technologies for this kind of communication: 802.11p, a short-range technology based on WiFi, and cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X), favoured by the mobile telecommunications industry.

The GSMA is worried that the EU intends to make 802.11p the standard for safety-related messages between vehicles, restricting usage of the more advanced C-V2X solution, which is slated to enter the market next year.

In its new position paper entitled Safe and Smarter Driving: the Rollout of Cellular V2X Services in Europe, the GSMA urges the Commission to adopt a technology-neutral approach in developing the EU’s C-ITS, and calls upon European legislators to allow the market to decide which technology prevails. Europe’s complex C-ITS ecosystem needs a technology foundation that will remain sustainable over time and will maximise the benefits of future investment in 5G.

Designed to support both present and future use cases in the automotive sector, including autonomous driving, the C-V2X technology was standardised in June 2017 and is quickly gaining market traction amongst leading car manufacturers, including BMW and Audi.

In the 5G era, C-V2X connectivity promises to help revolutionise transportation, with self-driving cars ultimately taking over streets across the globe. By contrast, an isolated stand-alone 802.11p technology will struggle to evolve within 5G networks and could amount to a major setback for Europe in the global race for 5G leadership.