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Should consumers care about car connectivity?

At the end of March, Commsignia’s head of automotive Szabi Patay participated in a Reuters roundtable session about Smarter and Safer Vehicles. Here are the key details for all those who missed the event, and some answers for those who sent questions in the Q&A.

Published April 1, 2021

Vehicle to everything – V2X – connectivity is the only solution which provides non line-of-sight information for a vehicle. It’s a crucial augmentation of sensor technologies, communicating cars can receive information from other vehicles or from the infrastructure. Why is it important? Carmakers will have to take responsibility for their self driving systems, and V2X can reduce liabilities in an inexpensive way. 

As we mentioned in a previous blog post, V2X is just around the corner, NCAP will make it mandatory in the near future for a top safety rating. Our view is that this will result in a steep adoption rate. No OEM will want to be left behind by the competitors.

Car owners probably won’t know about the connectivity in their car.

But it doesn’t really matter who knows what about the onboard connectivity. Everyone will check safety ratings instead, that’s easy to understand. 

The matter of prices also came up in the conversation, but it’s not really important to the end user. It’s enough to know that V2X is one of the cheapest sensor technologies. We don’t know the cost of the airbags and the seat belts, yet we’d never buy a car without them, would we? As for the OEMs’ costs, we have good news, they can monetize connectivity in many ways, for example V2X-based tolling and payment for EV charging.

Since V2X systems are serving safety, building it into mass produced vehicles has implications for manufacturing and software development. 

Functional safety compliance is necessary. 

OEMs and Tier 1s have to prepare now for launching V2X systems in the coming years.

Do you want to hear about this more? You can watch the video on the Reuters Events website. We had limited time in the Q&A session, therefore we have written down some of the audience’s questions to answer here.

Will the vehicles exchange information? If so, what kind of information? Is there a boundary between what information should be exchanged and finally will there be a standard communication between each manufacturer?

Yes, vehicles will share information, and they will do it with standardized methods. That is vehicle-to-everything is all about. Vehicles don’t share private information such as a licence plate number or anything else about the owner. Some V2X messages share a vehicle’s physical properties, for example the speed, the size and the direction, while other messages share a location and a certain warning, for example that the vehicle has stopped on the hard shoulder. The information is standardized, so every vehicle talks in the same language.

Who will win the battle OEM or ByoD [the carmakers or the users’ personal devices]? There was A similar question:  Do you believe in cooperative solutions through smart devices such as smartphones or smart watches to save our child?

It’s a broad question, and we don’t know if the kids in the backseat prefer their own personal devices or the car’s built-in entertainment system. When we remain at road safety, the OEM is a clear winner. Phones have depleting batteries, there are huge variations in hardware performance, and the owner of the phone can literally install anything, in some cases even malwares. It’s really hard to trust a person’s life on such an unpredictable device. When OEMs build safety solutions in a car, strict requirements and exact specifications must be met. V2X is specifically a safety feature, its functionality is not affected by any entertainment features running in the background.

How do you see the coexistence of network-based services (LTE / 5G) and C-V2X evolving over time?

Mobile network and direct communication (C-V2X or ITS-G5) services complement each other. 5G and LTE has proven to be appropriate for news and weather services over a large area. Even mobile phones do a great job when we talk about general, not too urgent news about traffic jams and approaching storms. To share real-time information about cars that have just crashed, when we need the exact location of a hazard to avoid it, we must rely on a safety first solution: the direct vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure V2X messages.

As the amount of data to/from the car is rapidly growing, who will pay for the bandwidth?

V2X direct messages are free, because these are transmitted on the special 5.9 GHz frequency band, reserved for road safety applications. LTE or 5G connections are paid services. In some cases the car owner can choose the operator and the mobile data package, but sometimes the mobile connection is part of a larger option package that contains many other things, for example navigation map updates, wifi hotspot for passengers, online music and video services.