In a time when connected devices are changing the way humans interact with the world, vehicles can’t fall behind. The automotive industry is working at a vertiginous pace to fit into an increasingly connected world, and it has much to offer. Invented as a means of transport, now vehicles are going a step further and are learning to communicate. But, what does this exactly mean? Do they speak? Actually, kind of.
Connected vehicles can use their own communication system to interact with their surroundings and other vehicles. And, of course, with us humans. They are connected to a driving collective network where they exchange information using a kind of a ‘language’ specifically designed for vehicles. It’s called Vehicle-to-everything or V2X technology. This communication capability in connected vehicles is very useful in terms of driving efficiency and environmental sustainability, but especially to guarantee better safety conditions on the road.
But how can connected vehicles help to guarantee safer journeys? By sharing. They continuously send information about us, for example about our position, destination and speed, as well as receive information from others. At the same time, they analyse all that data around to give us driving advice through warning signals we receive in our vehicle. These alerts can be very different. For instance, to warn us that within 5 seconds a runner will cross a low visibility intersection ahead of us, or to inform us the traffic light will stay green during the next 50 seconds.
Connected driving is reshaping the automotive industry in many ways and at DEKRA we are aware of its potential. For this reason, we are strongly building our service portfolio in this area and working on R&D projects of V2X. But this new technology will also transform our nearest future, so let’s discover more details about how connected vehicles work!
Technology behind connected vehicles
V2X: communication at the road
Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) is a communication system that, as its name points out, allows connected vehicles to communicate ‘with everything’. Does it mean literally with everything? Almost. A connected vehicle can communicate with another vehicle, pedestrian, device, infrastructure or network that speaks the same language: V2X. If not, they can’t understand each other.
V2X encompasses different types of vehicular communication depending on what the connected vehicle communicates with. There are various agents that are already defined: vehicles, pedestrians, devices, infrastructure and networks. But they might increase as long as the technology continues in development.
Vehicle calling to...
There is a specific way to name each type of communication established between connected vehicles and the agents. It consists of a formula formed by combining 'vehicle-to' (V2) with the agent concerned. This way, for instance, when a connected vehicle communicates with another, we talk about vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication. And when a connected vehicle receives and sends information to pedestrians, vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) communication is established.
On the other hand, if our connected vehicle contacts the infrastructure around us, like traffic signals and safety signals, it establishes a vehicle-to-infrastructure communication (V2I). The same happens with networks, the connected vehicle communicates with the network via vehicle-to-network (V2N) communication.
Communicating to be safer
How can communication with all the connected agents contribute to the improvement of driving? If we consider the actions and statuses of other elements and vehicles involved in driving, we can use this information to optimize ours. Each type of V2X communication brings useful information that will help us to make safer decisions on the road.
But what is this information about? It can be safety alerts to pedestrians and cyclists about vehicles nearby, alerts to improve driver’s visual perception in case of darkness or other conditions deteriorating visibility, alerts about sudden obstacles on the road, collision risks, dynamic traffic signalling, real-time traffic and weather, cloud services, among others.
Therefore, perhaps having only a single driver applying this strategy wouldn't bring many noticeable improvements. But if all drivers use connected vehicles, it would mean a safer and more efficient driving environment for all of us.
Connectivity in V2X communication
Connected vehicles use V2X technology to communicate, so they need to use a wireless connection that enables them to send and receive information and make this communication happen. Nowadays, connected vehicles use mainly two types of wireless technologies. On one hand, they can use the Dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), that allow establishing a high-speed short-range direct communication between the vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure, based on a standard similar to Wi-Fi. On the other hand, connected vehicles can also use Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X), where connected vehicles use cellular connectivity, mainly based on 4G and 5G.
When the fastest is the safest
Although both connections let connected vehicles establish V2X communication, there are some differences between them that cause some controversy among experts. The main discussion is focused on low latency, or how much time a message takes to arrive at its destination. In V2X technology it’s very important to exchange the information as fast as possible, because the main purpose of this communication is to prevent and avoid accidents and blind-spots. So, the closer we can get to a real-time transmission, the better to achieve it. In this case C-V2X and 5G have a lot to offer.
C-V2X vs DSRC
Connected vehicles using C-V2X communication based on 5G can operate with very low latency, with just 1 millisecond between a message is sent and received. Moreover, this cellular connectivity is also able to provide large bandwidth, which is very important if we are in the middle of a traffic jam, or driving in a big city where a lot of devices are connected to the network simultaneously.
In the last few years, many developments related to the 5G usage have been achieved in C-V2X, for example the R&D projects we develop at our DEKRA's Connected Driving Test Area facilities with 5G infrastructure. This technology offers many advantages, though the 5G infrastructure is not yet implemented in most countries.
On the other hand, DSRC is also a valid technology for connected vehicles. With a longer trajectory, DSRC has already been tested and used on many projects. Although it reaches shorter distances, its connection is strong and steady.
Which connection should be used in connected vehicles: C-V2X or DRSC? Actually, as both technologies contributed to the optimal performance of V2X technology in different aspects, combining the usage of both would be advantageous.
However, some countries have already chosen one of them. For example, in the United States DSRC is being removed from the spectrum allocation within 1 year and C-V2X will be the only communication used.
Implementing V2X in vehicles
A question you may be wondering while reading this article is: how does a connected vehicle look like? Its appearance is the same as a regular vehicle. The main difference is that connected vehicles are equipped with V2X technology, that can be present in two different ways. Some have it integrated into their systems, as an additional component. However, vehicles that don't have it as a factory setting, it can be added as an 'onboard unit' equipped to provide V2X communication. So, connected vehicles look the same outside, but are smarter inside.
Driving safer, greener and more efficiently
Connected vehicles contribute to saving lives on the road. They are at least configured to do so. Enabling vehicles to establish communication with everything in their vicinity, it's a helpful method to try to anticipate and prevent accidents that can harm health or cost lives. But protecting people is not its only benefit. Connected vehicles also optimize efficiency and sustainability on the road. With smarter vehicles that help us to drive better, the traffic flow will be more fluent and efficient, allowing for meaningful improvements in controlling emissions. Therefore, connected vehicles could make it easier to protect the earth's environment.
Using connected vehicles in our daily lives sounds exciting. We have learned a few basic concepts about them, but there is much more to discover. So, if you want to find out more about Connected vehicles for a safe road interaction, continue to the next article!