Ericsson, Vodafone, BMW advocate for C-V2X for road safety in Europe, not ‘old Wi-Fi’

Ericsson, Vodafone and BMW Group are urging the European Commission to consider cellular-based technology, or Cellular-V2X (C-V2X), for car safety rather than effectively mandating what amounts to an old Wi-Fi technology, which is where the EC appears to be headed.

Reuters described the companies’ move as a last-ditch effort to persuade the EC; the latest draft of the proposed rules seen by Reuters last month paves the way for cars equipped with Wi-Fi, called ITS-G5, to hit the roads of Europe. ITS-G5 supporters include Volkswagen, Renault, NXP, Autotalk and Kapsch TrafficCom.

In a letter to the EC and in a blog post on Ericsson’s website, the three companies said that as it stands, the plan being developed appears to rule out the use of C-V2X, specifying the single-purpose ITS-G5 for vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-road-infrastructure and vehicle-to-control-center interactions (V2X).

“While it is heartening to see that DG Connect has recently launched a public consultation on a future Recommendation on connected automated driving—including guidance on the use of pioneer spectrum for 5G connectivity for large scale testing—we are concerned that we are headed for a Delegated Act that would effectively lock the automotive ecosystem into old Wi-Fi technology,” the companies wrote.

Recent tests have shown the superior performance of C-V2X relevant to noncellular ITS technology, they said, adding that “Wi-Fi also has no relationship to existing cellular infrastructure, nor will it be compatible with 5G, which provides the best of both worlds: direct short-range communication in unlicensed bands and long-range communication with 4G and 5G.”

Reuters said the EC is now seeking feedback from other internal units before it puts the proposal to EU countries and EU lawmakers for comment. It is expected to adopt legislation on the topic next year.

RELATED: Qualcomm undeterred on road to C-V2X

In the U.S., Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) is based on IEEE 802.11p and decades ago, spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band was designated for it. And while there have been moves at the FCC and elsewhere to see if Wi-Fi can share spectrum with DSRC devices, some commissioners and others (PDF) increasingly are calling for a whole rethink of the 5.9 GHz band.

Ford, Qualcomm and BMW are in the camp that supports C-V2X, but others, like Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen, are sticking to DSRC, leaving the situation in mostly a deadlock (Qualcomm thinks C-V2X is going to be big in 2019).

In their letter, Ericsson, Vodafone and BMW noted that cellular technology is emerging as a strong candidate for connecting vehicles in China and the U.S. “This could put the EU at a disadvantage: European manufacturers would have to incorporate different technologies for export and they could be isolated from global distribution and innovation efforts,” they said.

Of the nearly 25,300 road fatalities and the 135,000 serious injuries in the EU last year, many were vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists. A lot of these road users carry mobile devices and C-V2X offers a native solution that could be used on a variety of devices, including smartphones, which would allow them to realize the safety benefits of intelligent transport systems, the companies wrote.

“It’s not surprising that organizations that have invested in Wi-Fi technology since 2010 would prefer that cellular technologies take a back seat so they can protect their investment. However, it would be a shame if the vested interests of the few prevented new technologies emerging which would benefit the many,” the letter said.

RELATED: Ericsson files to conduct autonomous driver demo at CES 2019

In an additional note, Ulf Pehrsson, vice president, Government and Industry Relations for Ericsson, said cellular networks have a coverage that is impossible for any alternative technology to achieve. Infrastructure and further investments in the cellular platform will be far more efficient in increasing traffic safety and saving lives. Advanced traffic solutions are also envisaged for the further evolution of cellular, towards 5G. In order to stimulate investments and innovation to the benefit of traffic safety and efficiency, it’s important that Europe doesn’t deviate from this route to 5G, Pehrsson said.