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How long till the V2X dream becomes an everyday reality?

Mike Tzamaloukas, connected vehicle specialist for Harman International Industries, talks exclusively to Traffic Technology Today about the challenges facing cellular solutions for V2X, and why the long wait for DSRC connectivity may soon be over – at least when it comes to vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

Does Harman have a preference for DSRC- or cellular-based V2I communications?
So long as the network is capable of providing the right level of service, we’re agnostic. The key is that the speed and throughput of the network is sufficient to make sure we can provide the capability we’re trying to unleash. We would like to support them all – and I think the ‘winner’ is probably going to be a combination of both.

But we’ve been talking about the connected car now for quite a few years, but if you buy a 2017 model, probably 95% of them are still not connected. The world we live in is moving very slowly to the connected car, and will continue to do so for a few more years, in my opinion, which means that all the talk about 4G and 5G, and whatever is beyond that, is almost irrelevant.

It’s also hard to imagine that 5G, which might have the millisecond response from head unit to Cloud and back again, which is needed for safety, will be fully achieved in the next 10 years. So I’m not sure that the cellular part of the equation is a done deal.

What’s the delay with DSRC?
Back in 2002-3, I was part of the committee that wrote the DSRC specifications. There was a lot of hope and expectation but we all said it would probably take 10 years before we started seeing it in the car. I had a startup [Dash Navigation] that used V2V communication for navigation. We demonstrated it, but I was thinking that there was no way it would take 10 years to become available in every car. Fifteen years later, we haven’t started yet!

There are lots of reasons why this hasn’t happened but one was that when we put the DSRC specifications together, we realized you needed a different ‘box’ in the car. Vehicle OEMs are reluctant to put additional hardware in cars because it’s potentially something else to go wrong. In a perfect world they would like one platform – like Harman’s new Compute platform – and have everything go through it. Nobody could quite see the benefits of DSRC so there was a lot of resistance to this new box.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for DSRC?
What has happened recently – and I think this is a game-changer – is the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) proposal to mandate a V2V capability for specific use cases e.g. car-to-car for collision avoidance [guidance for V2I communications will follow soon].

They’ve also hinted at car-to-pedestrian communication, which in my opinion will be something much more powerful. The head unit could notify the pedestrian via an app whether there is imminent danger from a passing car. So that’s one thing that could increase the momentum for DSRC.

The second factor is technology. The development of wi-fi radios that also support DSRC could mean that there will no longer be a need for separate hardware.

How close is Harman to putting V2I technology on the road?
Using cellular, we have a customer who will be doing V2I from next year, and another one coming after that – but this is not a real-time, proximity-based alert and collaborating capability. With wi-fi you can expect a warning system, not necessarily an emergency braking system, but that’s still a great step in the right direction. You can implement much more with true DSRC later on. It’s catching up: with the NHTSA ruling and technology changing, I think DSRC has a growing chance of being part of the future ecosystem.

Will the cost of implementation in infrastructure remain a problem for DSRC?
I don’t see any easy way around the cost of implementation. The beaconing technology of DSRC has been there for years now, but it’s tens of thousands of dollars and months of preparation per installation. But even if the USA doesn’t do it because it’s so costly and complicated, there might be other countries where it’s easier to implement.

For now, the main force to bet on is cellular. In special cases, DSRC will work fine, for example in car-to-car – why wouldn’t you have it preventing a collision? But this is not a general-purpose solution and it’s possible that in some cases there will be decisions that benefit the cars of some OEMs at the expense of others.

January 26, 2017

 

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