A few weeks ago, I wondered whether connected cars might end up using LTE modems for Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications rather than the 5.9GHz Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) protocol. Although the DSRC bandwidth was allocated in 1999 and the 802.11p spec was outlined in 2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been very slow to act, and here in 2017 we’re still waiting for automakers to actually add it to any of their vehicles.
By contrast, 4G LTE is becoming pervasive across new car lineups with no reason to believe it will be any different when 5G LTE arrives. But today, Qualcomm revealed a new chipset for OEMs that will let us have our connected car cakes and eat them too.
Due in the second half of 2018, it’s called the Qualcomm 9150 C-V2X chipset, and the name sort of gives it away. C is for cellular, as it will work with 4G and emerging 5G networks. And V2X—Vehicle-to-Everything—means it also uses the 5.9GHz V2X protocol that is meant to directly connect to other cars, traffic lights, and even pedestrians. The C-V2X chipset also has an integrated global navigation satellite system built in, and Qualcomm has also come up with a C-V2X reference design that pairs the chipset with an application processor running its Intelligent Transportation Systems V2X stack and a hardware security module.
“With its strong synergy with telematics and an evolution toward 5G, C-V2X offers benefits to the automotive industry by developing new capabilities for improving road safety and enhancing autonomous driving and advanced connected services, while building on the ITS momentum and investments made over the last decade. C-V2X is expected to support safer roads, increase productivity, and decrease traffic congestion,” said Nakul Duggal, VP of product management at Qualcomm.
You have to hand it to Qualcomm—this seems like a smart move. It will shortly be almost impossible to buy a new car without a cellular modem built in, a market of which Qualcomm already owns a huge slice. By combining V2X into the same unit, OEMs don’t have to find room for yet another black box inside their cars. And then we might finally start seeing enough cars on the road for V2X to start working.