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Connected traffic (5G vs. WLAN): China versus USA and the EU

Collage: auto-motor-und-sport .de
Networked traffic (V2X)
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I engineers and programmers love abbreviations. Journalists don't do that. Therefore there is a lot of space in this text to explain what is behind the abbreviations. Sorry for that, but this relatively complex subject is almost impossible to understand otherwise. Getting started is still the easiest exercise. Basically, the main thing is that modern cars should ideally be able to communicate with one another. In the first step, this has nothing to do with whether a car drives autonomously or not. In the imagination of developers, traffic planners and accident researchers, a driver who knows in advance that an accident is about to happen around the next bend is much more capable of mastering a potentially dangerous situation than an unsuspecting person.

But where should the information about the accident around the corner come from? Ideally, from the vehicle involved in an accident. Or from another road user who has already passed the scene of the accident. Important: The cars and the computers on board talk to each other. Almost in real time and without the driver having to contribute anything. If the worst comes to the worst, this then leads to a warning flashing in the multifunctional or head-up display - or the emergency brake assistant on board going into trouble because it already knows that it is likely to rattle. So far so easy. The idea is called vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) or car-to-car communication (C2C).

Fridge, traffic light, cell phone: everyone talks to the car

Next step: The car not only speaks to its peers, but also to the infrastructure around it. This is called vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), car-to-infrastructure (C2I) or simply car or vehicle-to-everything (V2X, C2X) and is therefore always a topic for the IoT Internet of Things or Internet of Things. The applications conceivable in this scenario are always based on the assumption that it is not just cars that are becoming increasingly networked, but that refrigerators, traffic lights, parking garages or even entire intersections can connect to the Internet, be controlled from there or make information available. A few examples: If you know that the traffic light at the next intersection will be red for 45 seconds, you will probably drive much more slowly and thus more efficiently and environmentally friendlythe intersection too, as someone who has no idea how long the red phase will last. Or you can take the short detour that takes you to your destination without a red light and is conveniently suggested directly by the navigation system. Less relevant to security, but nice: the refrigerator at home throws a few ice cubes into the glass exactly at the moment when its owner drives into the garage. The car announced shortly beforehand. In a networked world, theoretically no problem. At this point we deliberately exclude whether you find all of this good or bad. However, there are definitely markets in which precisely such scenarios or services are in extreme demand. China, for example, or the entire Asian region. And we're already in the middle of the current mess.

C-V2X: Communication via the cell phone network of the future

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What is critical here is not the idea of ​​the networked world, but rather the technological basis on which cars and infrastructure should talk to one another. China has committed itself to a standard called C-V2X, which stands for 'Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything'. The basis for this system is the cellular network, which by then ideally uses the ultra-fast 5G standard and will be ten times as fast as we know today from data transmission in the LTE network. Why is China of all places coming around the corner with the C-V2X? Because the world's largest network equipment suppliers are based here and expect good business from the 5G standard. Also, when it comes to technology, the Chinese are extremely cost-conscious. Letting things communicate with each other via a radio network that is already there anyway corresponds pretty much to the Chinese understanding of innovation and pragmatism. In other words: The three Chinese ministries responsible for industry, technology, transport and public safety committed themselves in 2017 to equipping 90% of all Chinese cities and highways with C-V2X technology. All newly registered vehicles in China with a C-V2X connection should be on the market by 2025. And China is not known for failing to achieve such goals.

Buildings, traffic lights, refrigerators: In the networked world the car is supplied with information from anywhere.

The automotive industry, technology groups and suppliers are on board and joined forces in September 2016 to form the 5GAA , the '5G Automotive Association', which is committed to the development and introduction of the C-V2X technology including the 5G standard. Founding members: Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia, and Qualcomm. All of them corporations that earn billions in China and would like to continue doing so. 82 companies are now organized in the 5GAA. In 2017, Audi and its partner Huawei, as part of a model project in the Chinese city of Wuxi, put a first prototype with traffic light detection based on C-V2X technology on the road.

Safety-relevant systems need data in real time

Important: When in doubt, interacting networked systems are not just a practical matter, they are more than decisive for the success of the idea of ​​autonomous driving. A self-driving car that is supplied with what is happening around it does not have to collect this information and data itself and can also use data that would otherwise not be available to it (the accident around the corner already cited). However, this data and information must be available more or less in real time and with the volume of data that arises, real time always means the 5G cellular standard.

USA & Europe: The lead is gone

Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia, and Qualcomm have joined forces to form the 5GAA initiative to create C-V2X and the 5G standardto get it ready for the market quickly.

And what's the problem now? In Europe. And the USA. The importance of networked systems for the future of mobility has of course also been recognized in the two traditional automotive markets. Partly almost 20 years ago. The result is two V2X communication solutions: the DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication) system, which was developed in the USA, and the Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) preferred in Europe. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) plans to submit an application in 2018 that will prescribe V2X technology for all newly registered US vehicles by 2020. Unsurprisingly, the solutions should be based on DSRC.

Unlike C-V2X, C-ITS and DSRC are roughly based on the WLAN standard IEEE 802.11, which is called IEE 802.11p for the V2X solution. Despite various technical differences, both systems work with largely compatible hardware. Both V2X solutions are specially designed to transfer data between fast-moving vehicles over a distance of at least 300 meters and at data transfer rates of up to 27 Mbit /s and are characterized by extremely low latencies. In other words: Autonomous vehicles that communicate with each other via DSRC or C-IST can react more or less in real time. A very important aspect, especially with a view to security-relevant scenarios.

Europe & USA are too slow

So why has the 5GAA initiative developed a countermovement that calls for C-V2X propagated? Because despite the enormous potential of the entire V2X approach, the implementation of regional specifications is only progressing very slowly or not at all. All in all, this has now taken more than a decade without the authorities in the USA or Europe having introduced binding rules.

DSRC and C-ITS are based on the approach that vehicles communicate directly with one another without the “detour “Over the cellular network. C-IST proponent Siemens, for example, justifies the rejection of the new C-V2X approach. The 5GAA initiative, on the other hand, maintains that only the mobile communications component offers effective options for reducing hardware, software and development costs. In practice, however, both camps have since upgraded considerably and more or less eliminated the respective weaknesses. DSRC and C-ITS can now communicate directly with a specially equipped infrastructure, C-V2X achieved latencies comparable to those of DSRC and C-IST in test operation and the latest version also works directly between two vehicles without a mobile phone network.

So a tie? Unfortunately not quite. What the DSRC and C-ITS are missing are binding government guidelines. By opting for the C-V2X, China created facts and made it possible for theTo minimize or completely compensate for the technological advantage that DSRC and C-ITS have been able to claim for themselves over the years. There is now practically no major international car manufacturer, supplier or network supplier who is not developing C-2VX systems with high pressure. They are definitely needed in China.

EU commits itself to WLAN

Europe, represented by the EU, has meanwhile committed itself and has spoken out in favor of the WLAN standard. The WLAN solution can be implemented faster, more cheaply and with greater availability. In addition, car manufacturers such as Toyota, Renault or VW have also opted for WLAN technology.

The EU decision in favor of C-ITS is particularly remarkable from a geopolitical point of view. The standard is similar to the American system DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication), which also works with WLAN. China, on the other hand, relies fully on the 5G card. Just like the car manufacturers Audi, BMW and Daimler, who are united with many other tech and IT companies in the '5G Automotive Association'. Nevertheless, the European guideline is likely to mean that you and your suppliers have to develop networked systems twice: once according to the C-ITS or DSRC standard and once according to 5G specifications. However, the new EU position is not without controversy: According to information from Welt am Sonntag an alliance around the Munich-based car maker BMW and other suppliers is preparing an initiative to put pressure on the federal government to prevent the plans. The EU transport ministers can veto the WLAN decision until mid-May.

Double development and different speeds

Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia, and Qualcomm have joined forces to form the 5GAA initiative in order to make C-V2X and the 5G standard ready for the market quickly.

The losers in this case are primarily car manufacturers and suppliers. In the worst case, they develop twice: In Europe vehicles with DSRC or C-ITS modules, forChina the same vehicles with C-V2X technology. And behind that, a whole bunch of software and service offers for the increasingly differentiated regional customer needs. “On the development side, that's a nightmare right now,” commented a high-ranking developer of a German car manufacturer when asked by auto motor und sport about the current situation. “In China, development is agile. C-V2X development and implementation in the vehicle run more or less parallel and in quick, short steps. It took us a while to adjust to it. In Europe and the USA, everything is still going on as before. It is developed over years and then a product is brought onto the market that will be valid for many years! In this way, we have gambled away many years of development lead in this case ”.


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