V2X protocol war heats up
Communications technology is one of the primary enablers of connected vehicles now and will certainly be even more important for automated vehicles in the future.
Recent research from MarketsandMarkets predicts that the V2X (vehicle to everything) market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of almost 18% from 2017 to 2025, reaching almost $100 billion by 2025 from just $27 billion in 2017. That’s good news for the major V2X market players that include Continental, Qualcomm, Aptiv (formerly part of Delphi), NXP Semiconductors, and Robert Bosch. MnM says that the automated/driver-assistance segment is expected to witness the highest growth in that overall market.
Though market growth is a good-news story, what might not be is the fast-developing V2X protocol war between incumbent and long-awaited DSRC (dedicated short range communication) and upstart C-V2X (cellular-vehicle to everything) technology. Strategy Analytics believes that DSRC’s mandate delays will favor C-V2X. A NHTSA-proposed mandate in the U.S. to fit DSRC wireless communication still has not been implemented and has an uncertain future under the current administration. Meanwhile, the cellular-based alternative C-V2X has recently been developed, with its advocates claiming it offers the high performance necessary to support V2X safety-critical applications.
With only limited offerings in Japan and on the 2017 Cadillac CTS sedan in the U.S., DSRC deployments are few for a technology that was developed 20 years ago, that was standardized 7 years ago, and has a recently proposed mandate planned for the U.S., says Strategy Analytics. The lack of critical mass for DSRC-enabled vehicles has shifted attention towards the cellular communication protocol as a means of promoting V2X more rapidly.
According to Strategy Analytics, stumbling blocks for DSRC include the need for a new widespread infrastructure to be built and the limited DSRC adoption, largely confined to electronic toll collection. Conversely, C-V2X can leverage the mobile-industry infrastructure to enable immediate access to less safety-critical applications, sometimes in tandem with connected vehicle services through a smartphone app. C-V2X also has a PC5 interface linking to the 5.9-GHz broadcast band for vehicles to enable safety critical non-line-of-sight vehicle-to-vehicle applications without adding data cost to consumers. “This will enable a faster route to V2X than otherwise with DSRC," said Kevin Mak, Senior Analyst at the Automotive Practice of Strategy Analytics.
However, competition between both sets of V2X standards might still result in a tech battle that risks slowing down adoption. According to ABI Research, the automotive industry seems increasingly divided into two camps, with General Motors, Toyota, and Volkswagen, along with many Tier 1 suppliers backing DSRC, while Audi, BMW, Ford, and others supporting C-V2X through the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA). The timing of deployments will depend on multiple factors including the resolution of spectrum-sharing issues, the nature of the V2V mandate in the U.S., 5G standardization, and regional ITS frameworks.
Ultimately what may sway debate is the cost for the automotive OEMs and suppliers to implement V2X. Even though the cost of implementing the technology is a main parameter for OEMs and Tier1s, the price of the two technologies has never been compared, says ABI Research. It recently conducted a study showing that implementing DSRC above cellular is more cost-effective than C-V2X.
The cost of implementing DSRC above cellular is expected to be $13.50-15.00 lower per telematics control unit than implementing a C-V2X solution. Since V2X is a safety-critical technology, C-V2X complexity and challenging requirements add cost over DSRC. The key architectural differences which impact cost are LTE ruggedization and automotive qualification, the need for high accuracy clock source, the cellular royalty scheme, and the use of Wi-Fi bundled with DSRC for free.
Eventually the industry will have to come together to decide what is in the best interest of the consumer wanting the added features and functionality that V2X communications enables.