If, by any chance, between October 8 and 11 you happened to be driving on the A2/M2 in Kent, you may have witnessed something revolutionary in connected car technology. And the chances are, you probably didn’t even realise it — what may have looked like a Porsche Macan driving down the motorway was in fact our test vehicle.
We were taking part in the InterCor Hybrid TESTFEST, testing Cellular-Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology. This was just the latest in a series of these on-road tests that we’ve been involved with across Europe. The aim is to demonstrate that the technology now exists to connect cars with everything around them — from manufacturers, to road signs and other vehicles — and in doing so improve road safety, cut congestion and improve the driving experience. And we’re not just showing this works within countries; we’re testing it across borders too.
Major public sector bodies, including the Department for Transport, Highways England, Kent County Council and Transport for London were involved in the UK tests. We were able to show them how C-V2X technology is working right now in a number of real-world use cases.
One of the biggest headaches for drivers today is roadworks. On any given route it’s likely that a driver will encounter some form of work being done, whether it’s a simple pothole repair or a major new road layout. Poor physical signage can mean that drivers aren’t always aware when and where the roadworks are taking place and can struggle to follow the diversions. This can affect their driving behaviour and make roads more dangerous for the driver, workers and other road users.
With C-V2X, drivers can receive up-to-date information on roadworks straight to their cars. At TESTFEST, we were able to show how the latest cellular technologies can transmit this information in real-time to onboard telematics devices or driver’s smart phones. Drivers receive alerts about any roadworks ahead, or average speed limits on their journey. With early warning, they can adjust their speed or plan an alternative route. And because C-V2X allows vehicles to communicate with each other, in the future it will be possible to get real-time information on traffic flow and speeds on the road ahead. That’s set to have huge benefits for road safety and help alleviate congestion in areas with roadworks.
Never miss a sign
Drivers have a lot to concentrate on; that’s especially true on motorways where cars are driving at higher speeds and constantly changing lanes. With so much to focus on it can be easy to miss warning signs. Whether it’s a warning of an accident ahead, congestion or a reduced speed limit, waiting for the next sign to get more information can be a headache for drivers. Particularly if the sign you missed could impact your decision of whether to continue ahead or come off at the next exit. Misreading these signs can result in drivers making rash decisions that could put others at risk.
Vodafone Automotive applications tested during TESFEST illustrated how these problems can be avoided with C-V2X. Information can be transmitted directly to your car and viewed on your dashboard. Drivers will no longer miss a sign and have to wait for the next one — the information will be constantly available from their car. Drivers can then make decisions in a timely and safe manner without impacting other road users. As cars become autonomous, it’s likely that they’ll make these decisions for us — if there’s congestion ahead, your car will be able to find and redirect you on to the optimal route.
Giving emergency vehicles a green light
Traffic lights are there for everyone’s safety, but sometimes they can hold up traffic that needs to get through. Ambulances responding to calls can get held up in traffic waiting at a red light, and jumping a light can cause road accidents. With a Green Light Optimised Speed Advisory (GLOSA) system and C-V2X this problem can be avoided. C-V2X can allow cars to identify themselves and selected groups, like emergency services, can be prioritised. A GLOSA system will receive an ambulance’s notification and provide more green lights to help relieve any congestion and speed up its journey.
But it’s not just prioritised groups, regular drivers can benefit from C-V2X and GLOSA too. Drivers are able to receive timely and accurate information about traffic signal timing and location straight to their cars and can then adjust their speed or route accordingly. This can help increase safety on our roads as drivers can prepare in advance for any red lights and slow down in a timely manner — in the future our cars will do this automatically.
C-V2X enables infrastructure-to-vehicle (I2V), vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication. During TESTFEST, we were able to test this technology both at the network level and at the device/telematics level. With these practical demonstrations, we showed how we’re able to deliver I2V and V2I software messages through our network to our own telematics devices, drivers own smartphone apps and Human Machine Interfaces (HMI).
These tests prove this technology is working right now — but it’s also ready for the future. We’re working on developing the 5G network to bring better connectivity to everyone, and this technology is already prepared and ready to be integrated. The future of driving is autonomous, and C-V2X is going to be pivotal to the safe and efficient use of self-driving vehicles. At Vodafone, we’re perfectly positioned to help make this a reality; we understand the network, the telematics devices and the software. We’re at the forefront of this technology and have more experience in the automotive industry than any other mobile operator — with R&D, technology and Vodafone Automotive teams specifically dedicated to this sector.
But in order for this technology to be truly successful, it’s vital that it has the ability to work across all networks. It’s no use a connected device only being able to talk to those from the same supplier — we need interoperability between suppliers, manufacturers, and users alike. That’s why all of our applications are device and vendor agnostic. We can help supply the connectivity for any telematics device, regardless of who you bought it from. We can also help supply the software straight to whichever telematics device or smartphone you choose to use. We’re committed to helping everyone be ready for the future, by creating solutions that are compatible with other networks and suppliers.
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