European connected car arm wrestle swings in favour of 5G

The Byzantine European bureaucracy is trying to pick a winner between competing connected car technologies and inevitably it’s taking ages.

Back in March we reported on the GSMA’s hissy-fit after the European announced a preference for the wifi-based Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) approach to wireless networking between cars and the rest of the world. The mobile industry understandably prefers 5G-based cellular vehicle to whatever (C-V2X) technology and thinks the EC is barking up the wrong tree.

One of the few advantages of having such a bloated, multi-layered approach to running things is that every decision made by Europe has to be approved by countless parliaments, councils, committees and cabals. After a few months it was the turn of yet another of these to mull the matter over and it announced its decision this morning.

The Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States to the European Union is so morbidly obese they had to split it in two and it was the duty of Coreper II to make a call on the ‘delegated act’, which is what the word of the EC gets packed up us for consumption by lesser bodies.

While there had been considerable lobbying in favour of C-V2X in the build up to the decision, it still came as a pleasant surprise to see Coreper II dare to stand up for the Commission and reject the wifi C-ITS plan. A consortium of mobile industry lobbying bodies – GSMA, GSA, ETNO and 5GAA had written at length last month about what a bad idea excluding cellular from the continent’s connected cars would be and they seem to have been rewarded.

“GSA, along with other leading mobile and automotive industry associations, believe the Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems  (C-ITS) ecosystem should neither be limited by technology nor place Europe and mobile and automotive companies at a clear disadvantage to other regions of the world,” said Joe Barrett, President of GSA.

“The decision by EU Member States to reject the Delegated Act on C-ITS and request the European Commission to reconsider its scope is great news for technology neutrality and signals a positive future for connected intelligent transport systems in Europe.”

The European Commission does allow light dissent every now and then, to maintain the illusion of accountability and due process. Normal procedure when something like this happens is for the EC to make cosmetic tweaks and keep putting the matter back to the vote until it gets what it wants. On such a binary matter of whether or not to back wifi-based C-ITS, however, it’s hard to see how such a fudge will be possible, so maybe this will end up being a rare defeat for the unelected Commission.

GSMA blasts EC over connected car tech choice

The battle for the soul of the European connected car industry has come down to G5 vs 5G and the European Commission has just picked a winner.

Today the EC adopted new rules around connected an automated mobility on EU roads that amounted to an endorsement of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS). On the surface this would appear to be quite a generic thing, but it seems to refer specifically to a set of technologies supported by ETSI, which include the ITS-G5 short-range wireless communications standard that uses 802.11p wifi rather than cellular.

“This decision gives vehicle manufacturers, road operators and others the long-awaited legal certainty needed to start large-scale deployment of C-ITS services across Europe, while remaining open to new technology and market developments,” said the European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, Violeta Bulc. “It will significantly contribute to us achieving our ambitions on road safety and is an important stepping stone towards connected and automated mobility.”

Mobile trade association the GSMA isn’t so sure, however. In fact it reckons Europe is seriously missing a trick by going for this tech over cellular-based C-V2X, as you might expect. Not only that, but the GSMA reckons that by picking the wrong winner for connected vehicle tech, the EC is setting back the development of 5G on the whole.

“This piece of legislation relies on a biased view of technology and impedes innovation,” said Afke Schaart, VP & Head of Europe of the GSMA. “If the EU stays on this road, it will isolate itself further in the global 5G race and severely harm 5G investment in Europe.” Strong words Afke and we’re not sure accusing the EC of being biased is the best way to win it around, but you’re the lobbying expert so go for it.

The arcane matter of G5 vs 5G is a bit above our pay grade here at Telecoms.com, but a spot of light Googling reveals plenty of boffins have given it some thought. A couple of years ago this paper seemed to conclude the tech itself isn’t that important, but more recently NXP decided C-V2X is still a bit rubbish. It remains to be seen how binding this EC choice will be for the European automotive industry, but as the UK is continually reminded, the EU is not a big fan of challenges to its authority.

Qualcomm claims first multi-vendor C-V2X demo in China

Mobile chip giant Qualcomm is pushing hard to be a key player in cellular communications between vehicles and the rest of the world.

The somewhat forced abbreviation for this sort of thing is C-V2X (cellular vehicle to everything) and the Qualcomm 9150 chipset is designed to enable it. In partnership with Chinese firm Datang Telecom Group Qualcomm has claimed the first demonstration of multi-chipset vendor C-V2X direct communication interoperability.

“This interoperability test conducted with Qualcomm Technologies is of great importance and is a milestone for the industry as it is the first chip level PC5 Mode 4 interoperability test, which demonstrated the maturity and readiness of commercial deployment for C-V2X technology,” said Yingmin Wang, CTO of Datang Telecom Group.

“Achieving this milestone with Datang is quite significant as it exemplifies the technology maturity to support C-V2X commercial deployments starting in 2019,” said Nakul Duggal, VP of Product Management at Qualcomm. “With our long history of wireless leadership in China, and close collaborations with the automotive and telecom industries, we look forward to continued work alongside leaders in China as we collectively advance towards the commercial reality of safer and more connected vehicles.”

This is all compatible with 3GPP Release 14 C-V2X direct communications (PC5) Mode 4, otherwise known as LTE-V2X. The demo used the Qualcomm 9150 chipset and Datang’s DMD31 LTE-V2X module, using the 5.9 GHz spectrum, which has been set aside for this sort of thing. One of the key use-cases will vehicle-to-infrastructure communication that is needed for things like automated collision avoidance and autonomous driving in general.

Nokia, AT&T, Qualcomm and Ford have a C-V2X party

Cellular-vehicle-to-whatever is a bit of a mouthful, so Nokia, AT&T, Qualcomm and Ford decided to abbreviate it. Nice work.

To celebrate their new abbreviation, the fantastic four decided to plan a nice lot of lovely testing in San Diego, California. The goal of the trials is to demonstrate the potential of C-V2X technologies, including support for improved automotive safety, automated driving and traffic efficiency.

There seems to be a bit of a spate of trying show what a good idea connected/autonomous/extremely clever cars are. Google’s Waymo subsidiary has been making persuasive videos down the road in Phoenix, Arizona, featuring wholesome, happy families enjoying incident-free autonomous car journeys.

The reasons for all this are clear: C-V2X, autonomous driving, etc are emerging technologies that promise to disrupt not only business models but social ones too. You can’t just inflict new things on the world and then be surprised at a degree of hesitance and luddite friction. Companies have learned that you need to prime the market first.

Lots of partners means lots of canned quotes, and since Qualcomm seems to have been put in charge of the press release, that will probably mean generic, risk-averse and self-congratulatory, but let’s find out eh?

“Leveraging the evolution of embedded cellular technologies for V2X communications holds great potential to advance safety benefits to all road users,” said Cameron Coursey, VP of AT&T Internet of Things Solutions. “Working with industry leaders, such as Ford, Nokia, Qualcomm Technologies, and state and local government agencies, we will together lead the way to safer, more secure, cost-effective, and efficient next-generation solutions.”

“The advancement of cellular technology for C-V2X applications is very encouraging,” said Don Butler, executive director, connected vehicle and services at Ford. “This technology promises to meet, and in some cases, exceed the performance requirements of vehicle communication being proposed by relevant government agencies while leveraging existing in-vehicle connectivity frameworks.

“C-V2X provides a reassuring path to technology advancements necessary to support emerging developments in autonomy, automated driving, and mobility. We are keen to investigate all aspects of this opportunity and support cross industry efforts that make that possible.”

“LTE and 5G technologies have the potential to dramatically transform our lives, and none more so than in transportation,” said Thorsten Robrecht, head of vertical network slices at Nokia. “Nokia has a keen interest in creating safe, efficient, and dynamic operating environments for autonomous vehicles, and we have gained much experience from our European projects over the last few years. As such, we are extremely excited to be involved in this project with AT&T, Ford, and Qualcomm Technologies, taking meaningful steps to evaluate what this technology will be able to deliver.”

“Qualcomm Technologies is working towards solutions designed for tomorrow’s safer and autonomous vehicles, not only by contributing and evolving C-V2X technology, but also by designing technological breakthroughs in other key areas such as 4G and 5G, precise positioning, machine learning, and computer vision,” said Nakul Duggal, VP, product management, automotive at Qualcomm. “We are pleased to work with industry and government leaders, in our hometown, testing and refining the technologies for the more connected, automated vehicle of tomorrow and advanced cellular infrastructure which includes small cells and roadside units.”

Told you.