V2X communications – LTE versus DSRC

March 29, 2018 // By Mark Patrick, Mouser Electronics
With all the hype surrounding self-driving vehicles based on artificial intelligence (AI), image recognition and sophisticated sensors, it is easy to forget about another important interrelated technology that also promises to help revolutionise driving. It is, in fact, destined to be a critical factor in making autonomous vehicles a reality. Known by the acronym V2X, it covers both vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications.

V2X refers broadly to a set of standards and technologies that will allow vehicles to interact with public roads and other road users - not necessarily by having to rely on use of cutting-edge electronics hardware, but potentially via tried and tested networking protocols and technologies. Despite its relative simplicity, V2X makes a multitude of interesting applications possible, including higher degrees of driving assistance, more efficient road usage and collision avoidance.

For many years, the leaders of the V2X pack have been the US-developed dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) and the European cooperative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently finalising a proposal to make V2X technology a mandatory feature of US vehicles, by perhaps as early as the 2020 timeframe, with DSRC expected to be the solution upon which it is based. However, while V2X has great potential, adoption and finalisation of dedicated regional V2X standards has been surprisingly sluggish, taking well over a decade already. It has been so slow in fact, that the mobile communications industry has recently seized the opportunity to aggressively push its own V2X standard, cellular-V2X (C-V2X).

In January 2017, when the NHTSA issued its proposal to make V2X a legally-required component of all US vehicle designs moving forward, it named DSRC as its preferred choice, but went to considerable lengths to say that it would also look favourably upon other technologies that could match or exceed the capabilities of DSRC, while remaining backwards-compatible with DSRC’s critical safety features. The long V2X marathon has, as a result, suddenly turned into a sprint, and the finishing line is now approaching rapidly. Has the former front-runner delayed too long and will it end up losing out?

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