By Roger Lanctot, Director of Automotive Connected Mobility for Strategy Analytics
Infrastructure is at the heart of the debate over the adoption and deployment of 802.11p-based V2X technology, otherwise referred to as dedicated short-range communications or DSRC, vs. delivering the same or superior value proposition via cellular-based C-V2X or 5G technology. While in-vehicle deployments may be the ultimate goal, infrastructure installations are seen as producing an immediate value proposition.
It is for this reason that the U.S. Department of Transportation and European regulators have funded and promoted infrastructure projects including, or even requiring, DSRC. While some local transportation authorities have welcomed these investments, and various test corridors have been installed as a result, including highway segments and batches of traffic signals, a backlash has grown among some local DOTs in states such as Virginia, my home state, against DSRC — which is seen as an expensive distraction with no future relevance.
While it is true that a handful of U.S. state DOTs have expressed support for DSRC, even representatives of the State of Michigan, an otherwise supportive geography, have noted that the handful of existing DSRC-enabled intersections operate in isolation from any networks and stand as an island or, more accurately, a technology cul-de-sac. At the heart of the resistance and skepticism toward DSRC among state DOTs is the perceived need for a fully networked solution for enabling V2X.
Those concerns were confronted and addressed head-on in comments made by AT&T at the recent gathering of the 5G Automotive Association in Washington, D.C. The speaker noted AT&T’s history of infrastructure investments:
- “AT&T invested more than $200 billion in capital in our U.S. networks over the past 10 years.”
- 2018: “Capital expenditures approaching $25 billion; $23 billion net of expected FirstNet reimbursements and inclusive of $1 billion incremental tax reform investment.”
The speaker further noted the wireless industry’s plans to “densify” the mobile network infrastructure with more than 770,000 new small cells between 2018 and 2026 in preparation for 5G to support a range of new usage scenarios including:
- Increased capacity,
- Supporting hyper-local deployment, and
- Higher bandwidth via point-to-point connections (including mmWave).
Only wireless carriers have the financial bandwidth and commercial motivations to support the infrastructure deployment necessary to deliver the life-saving and market-transforming capacity necessary to realize the complete vision of V2X technology encompassing vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure, and vehicle-to-pedestrian scenarios. The sigh of relief expressed by DOT representatives in the room at hearing AT&T’s words was palpable. The path to V2X clearly flows from the existing wireless infrastructure.
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