A new pilot project in Virginia aims to make the state's roads safer using wireless communications technology known as "cellular vehicle-to-everything" (C-V2X), which allows vehicles to communicate with infrastructure, such as traffic signals, road signs as well as other nearby vehicles.
In a collaborative effort between Audi of America, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and wireless infrastructure operator American Tower Corporation, the companies announced a milestone in an initial deployment of cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) communication technology in Virginia that includes workers wearing special vests with built-in Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P) communications technology that can alert drivers to their presence.
The Virginia C-V2X deployment was first announced earlier this year and is aimed toward improving road safety in work and construction zones in order to reduce the number of road hazards and fatalities.
C-V2X is a direct communication technology designed to offer low latency communications for vehicles and the technology is starting to gain traction. The short-range communications technology includes Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Roadside Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) communication without using a cellular network, or cellular service plan.
C-V2X communications operate on the designated 5.9 GHz Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) spectrum that's been allocated by the FCC specifically for connected vehicle technologies and advanced driver assist systems (ADAS).
Drivers of the Audi test vehicles will receive warnings of road work as well as the presence of workers wearing C-V2X enabled safety vests.
There is a big opportunity for C-V2X technology to address the more than 600,000 crashes and 36,000 fatalities on roads in the U.S. But the technology is not limited to vehicles. In the future, V2P technology can be ported to mobile phones and other personal devices, allowing vehicles to notify drivers when pedestrians or bicyclists are nearby.
Other uses for the V2P technology is that it can be embedded in a child's backpack alerting drivers that a school bus is up ahead and there are children present.
Audi is an early adopter of V2X technology and already offers its "Traffic Light Information" (TLI) service in some cities, allowing Audi vehicles to communicate directly with traffic signals.
The TLI technology also helps drivers to avoid red lights by recommending an ideal speed in order to catch mostly green lights, which is sometimes referred to as the "green wave."
If a drive happens to get stuck at a red light, Audi's TLI system displays a countdown on the dash that shows precisely when the signal will turn green, so drivers are not caught off guard when the light changes.
However for right now, the initial deployment in Virginia builts upon Audi's TLI and is being used to provide additional warnings to drivers of select Audi vehicles for two specific use cases where C-V2X will play an integral role in the future—work zones and roadside worker safety.
"The deployment of C-V2X on the Virginia Smart Road Corridor allows a new generation of vehicles capable of communicating not just through cellular towers but also directly with roadside infrastructure and vulnerable road users," said Pom Malhotra, director, Connected Services, Audi of America. "Today's milestone will allow Audi to accelerate the deployment of innovative use cases that have the potential to increase driver confidence on the road by providing warnings and in the future take autonomous action when sensing an impending collision or even a traffic rule violation."
While there are many more applications that can emerge from a C-V2X deployment including autonomous vehicles, work zones and roadside worker safety are particularly important to the project stakeholders, and set the stage for potential widespread deployment.
Workers Will Wear Reflective Safety Vests with Built in C-V2X
Receiving work zone roadside safety messages on the vehicle's dashboard offers a greater awareness for drivers, but vulnerable roadside and maintenance personnel that are performing road work in proximity to lanes can also receive messages and warnings that a vehicle is approaching by wearing a V2P enabled vest.
With the deployment in Virginia, roadside personnel will wear safety vests equipped with the V2P technology, while the Audi Q8 SUV test vehicles are being equipped with a Qualcomm C-V2X-based platform, to deliver warnings and alerts to drivers and personnel about each other's presence.
"The Virginia deployment is a significant milestone, serving as a successful proof point showing public and private organizations working together to apply C-V2X to achieve transformative safety and mobility benefit," said Jim Misener, senior director, product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
The companies are also developing new models of deployment with involvement from the public and private sector, so C-V2X technologies can be readily introduced to roadways across the globe.
For automakers like Audi that are adding C-V2X communications to their vehicles, working with industry partners is necessary, as the infrastructure to support advanced C-V2X communications needs to be in place. The companies are working with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and California company Commsignia on the initial deployment.
How the V-C2X Technology Works
C-V2X is designed to offer vehicles low-latency direct communications between other vehicles, roadside infrastructure and vulnerable road users without using a cellular network, or cellular network subscription, by operating in the designated 5.9 GHz spectrum.
VDOT's signal controllers broadcast traffic signal status information through roadside units (RSUs) provided by Silicon Valley-based Commsignia, a company that specializes in developing V2X hardware and software for vehicles ADAS. In addition to providing the RSUs, Commsignia also provides its Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) stack and onboard units installed in the vehicles.
The RSUs transmit messages using C-V2X to the Audi Q8 SUVs to supplement Audi's Traffic Light Information (TLI) service.
To facilitate the transmission of data, Boston-based American Tower Corp is providing the neutral wireless communications infrastructure for the C-V2X communications, while the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) has been contracted to develop the software and other systems necessary to support the initial deployment in Virginia.
"We expect neutral host models and shared RSU enhanced infrastructure to play a key role in the deployment of C-V2X in the Virginia Connected Corridors, a connected vehicle environment in Northern Virginia," said Ed Knapp, CTO, American Tower. "We are pleased to be working with industry-leading organizations to identify ways to accelerate C-V2X technology adoption and 5G edge infrastructure at scale."
C-V2X direct communications has already been integrated into Qualcomm Technologies' newest 4G and 5G automotive platforms. Qualcomm is already testing the technology in Hawaii in another pilot with Applied Information Inc announced in early August.
For the pilot in Hawaii, Qualcomm's C-V2X technology is being integrated into 34 traffic signals along the high-traffic Nimitz Corridor in Honolulu as a part of the Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) part of the program.
The pilot in Virginia builds upon the expansion and testing of these types of C-V2X communications around the world, including in China where 5G networks are being built to support V2V and V2I communications for autonomous driving.
In Virginia, VDOT is especially focused on improving road safety for the workers that maintain the state's roads. The state reports on average 7.3 work zone crashes each day.
"VDOT is excited to support the further exploration of C-V2X technology, deployed both in vehicles and in infrastructure," said Cathy McGhee, Virginia's Director of Transportation Research and Innovation. "We continually seek opportunities to apply technology in ways that provide safety and mobility benefits for Virginia roadway users and joint efforts like this are incredibly valuable."