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Partnerships key to deploying connected vehicles

Story by
Hui Cao

Dr Hui Cao

Head of Strategy & Policy, Huawei EU Public Affairs and Communication Office

City halls and police departments are joining car manufacturers, telco operators and ICT suppliers in ensuring that connected vehicle technology rolls out in harmony with 5G, writes DR HUI CAO*. 

From Turin in Italy to Metz in France and Berlin in Germany, cities and regions across Europe are testing connected and autonomous vehicles on their roads. And it is local partnerships that will be key to introducing driver connectivity across the continent.

In May this year, Turin became the first public authority to partner with the 5G Automotive Association, the body bringing together car makers and ICT suppliers to develop connected vehicle technology in Europe. Huawei is a founding member of 5GAA. 

5GAA members recently demonstrated, at public events in Paris and Berlin, the most developed technology in this field, C-V2X (vehicles connected to everything: to each other, roadside infrastructure, smartphone-carrying pedestrians, information and entertainment systems, etc.). 

C-V2X is designed to exploit the 5G networks now gradually being introduced worldwide, but to prosper in Europe it needs better support in terms of recognising the standard in rules about to be approved for intelligent transport systems.

Through joint testing, European manufacturers such as BMW, Audi and PSA have shown that their cars can connect seamlessly with one another on the roads, an important milestone in the standardization of platforms. It is expected that 15% of all vehicles will use such connected platforms by 2025.

The full benefits of C-V2X will only be felt once all the local partners are on board, however. Cars will connect to roadside infrastructure such as traffic lights, barrier-free toll stations, and road safety information channels, for example, and will be a key driver for Smart Cities. 

Smart roads will benefit greatly from 5G and much will depend on the determination of local authorities to deploy 5G applications in their municipalities. This is why Smart City partnerships, of which Huawei has many in Europe (from Duisburg and Gelsenkirchen in Germany to Sardinia in Italy), will be important in introducing services that transform cities and towns into smart hubs free of traffic congestion and with lower CO2 emissions.

The Wuxi project

But we still have to look further afield to find the best example of a local partnership advancing connected vehicle technology. 

Wuxi, a Chinese city of 6.5 million inhabitants 100 km west of Shanghai, built the world's first city-level LTE-V2X application demonstration area in 2018. It brings together the city’s economic, computerisation and public safety commissions, the Jiangsu provincial government, and is also supported by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, China Mobile, Huawei, Tian An Net and a number of manufacturers including Audi, FAW and Volvo.

The Wuxi project, which will last until 2020, has three goals, to: 

  • reduce the number of traffic accidents
  • reduce the amount of time drivers spend waiting in traffic, and 
  • to make driving more convenient and efficient; in essence, a pleasure again.

The current C-V2X standard network technology (LTE-V2X) has been set up at 211 junctions in the city, covering an area of 70 square kilometres. This includes the city's historic district, railway stations, airports, Taihu New City and a testing site in Xuelang. 

100,000 connected vehicles are being provided with the same connected platform. After this, the system will finally be applied to the entire Jiangsu province. The project involves the police, telecom operators and over 20 technical partners including Huawei.

C-V2X technology is the future

Huawei itself does not make cars. Focusing on ICT, its aim is to enable car manufacturers to build better vehicles. Huawei’s goal is to be a digital car-oriented and added-value components provider. 

The company’s hardware platform, the MH5000, which runs on the Balong 5000 5G chip, launched earlier this year, brings together the two worlds of 5G and connected cars. 

Such platforms, though, require the introduction of C-V2X technology through the right legislation and standards to support connected cars in economies across the world.

In Europe, the EU Member States (through the European Council) finally recognised this in July when they rejected a controversial proposal by the European Commission in the form of a Delegated Act on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) which favoured an old Wi-Fi standard over the new 5G technology. 

Following the intervention of EU national governments, the Commission could now be redrafting this C-ITS legislation in order to re-submit it to the European Council by the end of the year. 

This rethink would represent an opportunity for Europe to introduce legislation that will allow it to join China and the US at the forefront of innovation in connected vehicles, as we enter the 5G era. 

It would also ensure that the maximum number of partners – policymakers, administrators, technical alike – can come on board to transform Europe’s roads into safe, intelligent infrastructure which will make driving a safer and more pleasant experience.

*Dr Hui Cao will be presenting a workshop for journalists on connected cars in Brussels on 26 September, and speaking afterwards on the same day at the DigitALL Lunch Debate, on how Green 5G can help bring about a “revolution on the road” by improving road safety and reducing polluting emissions and traffic congestion.