Connected cars: A question of road safety in the 5G Vs WiFi debate

The automotive industry is moving ever closer in the mass development of connected cars, yet a number of challenges still exist for policymakers if the EU is to foster the development of the technology alongside fulfiling its long-term goal of zero fatalities by 2050 as part of its ambitious “Vision Zero” programme.

Regrettably, the commission has fallen short of the mark with regards to previous targets in the field of automotive safety.

In 2003, the executive arm of the EU published the third European Road Safety Action Programme, with the overarching objective of reducing the number of fatalities on EU roads by half by 2010.

Due to the fact that this target was missed, the commission moved the deadline of its target to 2020 and has also set out seven goals to pursue in the area of automotive safety.

Such objectives include: improving training for road users; bolstering the safety of road infrastructures and vehicle safety; encouraging the use of intelligent transport systems (ITS); improving emergency services; and protecting vulnerable road users.

Automakers and telecoms firms bicker over EU connected vehicle proposal

A battle between car manufacturers and telecoms operators is heating up as the European Commission prepares to announce legislation later this year that could determine whether automakers will need to rely on Wifi or wireless 5G technology to build internet-connected vehicles.

Meanwhile, as the automotive sector makes technological advances in the development of automated vehicles, a question prevails from the lips of policymakers across the continent: how can connected cars help the EU achieve its road safety goals?

The answer lies may lie in the form of networked technology employed to connect cars on Europe’s roads.

As the commission mulls over the details of its delegated act for Connected Cars as part of the Intelligent Transport System Directive, the debate dividing stakeholders is over whether connected cars would be better off using 5G or WiFi networks.

The commission is expected to announce a legal proposal this autumn with their decision, and it has previously said that it will not show a preference for one technology over another and that its stance will remain “technology-neutral”  so as to allow manufacturers to build systems that work with both WiFi and 5G.

However, there is a clear schism in the preferences of stakeholders. While car manufacturers would prefer the commission to see the benefits of installing satellite vehicle-to-vehicle communication, otherwise known as V2V and based on short-range WiFi signals, telecoms operators are rather rallying the positives of legislating in favour of C-V2X systems, a longer-range vehicle-to-infrastructure technology that is widely regarded as a vital step toward 5G for automotive applications.

The telecoms industry sees great potential in the 5G market and is keen on making the most of its capital investments in the field.

EC should not rush connected car proposals

DG MOVE has a very important decision to make this autumn. Under its own timetable, it is due to release fast-track proposals to define the technical solutions connected cars will be bound by for years to come.

Firms belonging to the pro-5G automotive association, 5GAA, whose members include automakers such as BMW and Daimler and telecommunications companies such as Vodafone and Nokia,  signed an open letter to the commission calling on them to be aware of the full benefits of C-V2X systems.

“We are very concerned about the progressing Delegated Act. At the current time, it rules
out the most recent technology, C-V2X, favouring a specific and
single-purpose Wi-Fi-based technology path (known as ITS-G5), thus precluding the
evolution to 5G for connected cars,” the letter writes.

“Such a decision would stunt the overall emergence of 5G connectivity infrastructure in Europe, and run counter to the objectives of the Commission’s own 5G action plan3, which aims to promote early deployment of 5G along major transport paths.”

Pressure on Commission ahead of decision on connected car technology

Pressure is mounting on the European Commission ahead of a decision it is expected to announce this autumn that will affect how internet-connected cars are built in Europe.

In July of this year, Italian superbike manufacturer Ducati participated in the first European safety demonstration of a C-V2X communications system between motorcycles and cars.

The test was made to put the safety benefits of C-V2X under the spotlight.

“This is the perfect demonstration of use cases in which the modern technologies can drastically improve the safety of future motorcycle users,” said Pierluigi Zampieri, Vehicle Innovation Manager at Ducati Motor Holding.

The test featured common situations that can take place between motorcycles and vehicles, and how C-V2X technology can be used to help improve road safety. These included an Intersection Collision Warning test and an Across Traffic Turn Collision Risk Warning examination.

The former involves a car pulling out from a junction and attempting to avoid colliding with a motorcyclist, while in the latter, a vehicle avoids a collision with a vehicle after making a left turning, by breaking sharply.

Zampieri praised the test as being an important step forward in fulfilling the goals set out in Ducati’s road safety objectives.

Furthermore, there have been advocates for C-V2X stateside that have been forthcoming in their praise for the technology to be viewed favourably by regulators.

Jessica Nigro, Head of Technology and Innovation Policy for Daimler North America has recently highlighted the fact that C-V2X technologies can be considered safer forms of technology because they provide enhanced reliability, can transmit higher capacities of data and can communicate over long distances.

She believes that the main obstacle to the rolling out of C-V2X systems nationwide is a regulatory one.

“Proponents of both DSRC and C-V2X technologies have the same aim – to improve road traffic safety and provide timesaving and convenience benefits to consumers,” she said.

“The realities of deployment feasibility, lower barriers to necessary infrastructure build-out, lower cost and a clear technical pathway forward demonstrate the argument for allowing C-V2X in the 5.9 GHz band so consumers can realize these advantages as soon as possible.”

However, on the issue of ensuring that EU’s roads are sufficiently safe, Toyota’s Director of Technology and Innovation Policy, Hilary Cain, has said that shorter-range WiFi networks have been developed more thoroughly and are better equipped to be put to use as and when required.

A 2016 strategy paper from the commission gave an insight its decision on the 5G Vs WiFi debate, declaring that the “initial deployment for short-range vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication will be based on technologies already available,” suggesting that WiFi could prevail.

The commission’s expert group responsible for thrashing out the policy details for the Connected Cars delegated act is due to soon meet to finalise the proposal.

With the potential safety of EU road users at stake, it’s decision will no doubt have a lasting impact on how it progresses towards its “Vision Zero” road safety objectives.


Subscribe to our newsletters