Qualcomm, Audi to conduct C-V2X pilot on Virginia roads

It’s not a commercial deployment by any means—that’s not allowed under current Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rules—but Qualcomm, Audi of America and the Virginia Department of Transportation are planning for initial C-V2X deployments on Virginia roadways.

Using the same portion of the 5.9 GHz band that the FCC has proposed for allocating for C-V2X, the three entities plan to show how the technology can be used to improve road safety. Plans call for the initial deployment to take place on select roadways in Virginia beginning in the third quarter of 2020.

“We’re hopeful that this announcement shows the traction that we’re getting,” said Dean Brenner, senior vice president, spectrum strategy and technology policy at Qualcomm, in an interview. “We’re very excited to have these first-class partners and to be part of a deployment in a real-world setting.”

RELATED: FCC looks to dedicate 5.9 GHz for Wi-Fi, C-V2X use

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) also has been contracted to develop the software and systems required to support the primary use cases defined for the initial deployment.

The use cases they’re talking about fall into two primary areas. One is work zone warnings, which will feature a Qualcomm 9150 C-V2X chipset solution via an in-vehicle safety display in Audi Q8 SUVs. It’s designed to deliver a graduated warning, with the last link being a low latency warning to drivers of the workers’ physical presence.

The other use case involves signal phase and timing (SpaT) from a traffic signal on arterial roadways. The signals will be transmitted with a Qualcomm 9150 C-V2X chipset solution to Audi Q8 SUVs. The vehicles will have the Audi Traffic Light Information (TLI) service that can provide drivers a countdown to the green light. C-V2X from the traffic signal can also provide direct information to the Audi Q8, which will be used by the TLI system to fine-tune the countdown information.

RELATED: Qualcomm launches Snapdragon Ride for assisted and self-driving with test rides in Vegas

It’s not clear exactly who is going to be driving the SUVs with the C-V2X technology in them, but Brenner described them as friendly users, which are often the case in pilot projects. “It’s a true collaboration,” he said.

Late last year, the FCC agreed on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes to revise rules for the upper 20 MHz portion (5.905-5.925 GHz) of the 5.9 GHz band to authorize C-V2X technologies that are supported by the automobile industry. There’s been an ongoing debate whether C-V2X, a newer, cellular-based technology, should be used in the U.S. for vehicle safety or Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), an older technology that pretty much went nowhere for two decades. The U.S. Department of Transportation is still pushing for DSRC.

RELATED: Qualcomm, Ford and Panasonic mark first U.S. C-V2X deployment in Colorado

Qualcomm for some time now has been involved in C-V2X work with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Panasonic and Ford Motor Company. A CDOT spokesperson told FierceWirelessTech that the state is technology agnostic when it comes to connected vehicles, using both DSRC and C-V2X so that it would be ready to support whichever one ends up dominating in the market.

According to Qualcomm, the C-V2X solution used in the initial Virginia deployment is based on 3GPP Release 14 and Release 15 specifications. A more advanced mode of C-V2X has an evolution path to 5G using 3GPP Release 16 specs.

The news about Qualcomm's work with Audi in Virginia received a shoutout from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who said C-V2X is a promising technology that's gaining momentum in the automotive industry as it enables communications between cars, infrastructure, cyclists, pedestrians and road workers. 

“Today’s C-V2X deployment announcement was only made possible through an experimental license. That’s because the current rules governing the 5.9 GHz band lock us into DSRC, a technology authorized by the FCC more than twenty years ago that has never been widely deployed,” Pai said. “The FCC recognizes the promise of C-V2X, having voted unanimously in December on a proposal to designate 20 megahertz for its deployment in the 5.9 GHz band. If this proposal is adopted, it would be a significant step forward for automotive safety, since there is currently no spectrum designated for C-V2X. Americans on the move would be the beneficiaries—but only if the FCC takes action and leaves the failed status quo behind.”