Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) Technology Will Be a Literal Life Saver – But What Is It?
Increased safety and smarter energy are among the expected results as V2X gets underway: Here’s a look at its progress.
A massive consumer-focused industry like automobiles is up close and personal with people—so up close that safety and driver protection from harm are top of mind for manufacturers. Although human error is the prevailing cause of collisions, creators of technologies used in vehicles have an obvious vested interest in helping lower the distressing statistics. After all, pedestrian deaths rose by 3.1 percent in 2014 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS). In that year, 726 cyclists and 4,884 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes. And this damage to innocent bystanders doesn’t include the growing death rate of drivers and their passengers.
Distracted driving accounted for 10 percent of all crash fatalities, killing 3,179 people in 2014 while drowsy driving accounted for 2.6 percent of all crash fatalities, killing 846 people in 2014. The road carnage is hardly limited to the United States. The International Organization for Road Accident Prevention noted a few years ago that 1.3 million road deaths occur worldwide annually and more than 50 million people are seriously injured. There are 3,500 deaths a day or 150 every hour and nearly three people get killed on the road every minute.
A Perplexing Stew
Thus it’s about time for increasingly sophisticated technology to step in and help protect distracted drivers from themselves. The centerpiece of what’s coming is so-called Vehicle to Everything (V2X) technology. Once it’s deployed, the advantages of V2X are extensive, alerting drivers to road hazards, the approach of emergency vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists, changing lights, traffic jams and more. In fact, the advantages extend even beyond the freeways and into residential streets where V2X technology helps improve power consumption and safety.
About the only problem with V2X is that it’s emerging as a perplexing stew of acronyms (V2V, V2I, V2D, V2H, V2G, V2P) that require some explanation—and the technology, while important, isn’t universally quite here yet. But the significance of this technology is undeniable. And getting proficient in understanding V2X is valuable in tracking future vehicle features that will link cars to the world around them and make driving safer in the process.
Here’s an overview of the elements of V2X and predictions for when it will hit the roads, from the soonest to appear to the last.
Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V)
Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communication is a system that enables cars to talk to each other via Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC), with the primary goal being to communicate wirelessly about speed and position and to utilize power in the most productive manner in order to warn drivers to take immediate action to avoid a collision. Also termed car-to-car communication, the technology makes driving much safer by alerting one vehicle about the presence of others. An embedded or aftermarket V2V module in the car allows vehicles to broadcast their position, speed, steering wheel position, brake status and other related data by DSRC to other vehicles in close proximity.
Clearly, V2V is expected to reduce vehicle collisions and crashes. It’s likely that this technology will enable multiple levels of autonomy, delivering assisted driver services like collision warnings but with the ultimate responsibility still belonging to the driver. V2V relies on DSRC, which is still in its infancy because the need remains to address security, mutual authentication and dynamic vehicle issues.
V2V is already making its way into new cars. For example, Toyota developed a communicating radar cruise control that uses V2V to make it easier for preceding and following vehicles to keep a safe distance apart. This is an element in a new “intelligent transportation system” that the company said was initially available at the end of 2015 on a few models in Japan. Meanwhile, 16 European vehicle manufacturers and related vendors launched the Car 2 Car Communication Consortium, which intends to speed time to market for V2V and V2I solutions and to ensure that products are interoperable. Plans call for “earliest possible” deployment.
One key issue with V2V is that to be most effective, it should reside in all cars on the road. Nevertheless, this technology has to start somewhere, so Mercedes-Benz announced that its 2017 Mercedes E Class would be equipped with V2V, one of the first such solutions to go into production.
Vehicle to Device (V2D)
Vehicle to Device (V2D) communication is a system that links cars to many external receiving devices but will be particularly heralded by two-wheeled commuters. It enables cars to communicate via DSRC with the V2D device on the cycle, sending an alert of traffic ahead. Given the fact that biking to work is the fastest-growing mode of transportation, increasing 60 percent in the past decade, V2D can potentially help prevent accidents.
Although bicycle commuting is healthier than sitting in a car, issues like dark streets in the evening and heavy traffic flow make this mode problematic when it comes to accident potential. Although less healthful, traveling by motorcycle and other two-wheel devices also has an element of risk because larger vehicles on the road tend to dominate.
V2D is tied to V2V because they both depend on DSRC, so V2D should begin to pop up after V2V rolls off the assembly line in 2017 and later. It will likely appear as aftermarket products for bicycles, motorcycles and other such vehicles starting in 2018. Spurring the creation of V2D products have been quite a few crowd-funded efforts as well as government grants like the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Smart City Challenge that will pledge to the winner up to $40 million in funding for creating the nation’s most tech-savvy transportation network in a municipality. Finalists (Denver, Austin, Columbus, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco) have already been chosen and they are busy producing proposals.
DOT has other initiatives aimed at encouraging the creation of various V2X technologies. V2D is one of the application areas in DOT’s IntelliDrive program, a joint public/private effort to enhance safety and provide traffic management and traveler information. The goal is the development of applications in which warnings are transmitted to various devices such as cell phones or traffic control devices.
Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P)
Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P) communication is a system that communicates between cars and pedestrians and will particularly benefit elderly persons, school kids and physically challenged persons. V2P establishes a communications mechanism between pedestrians’ smartphones and vehicles and acts as an advisory to avoid imminent collision.
The concept is simple: V2P will reduce road accidents by alerting pedestrians crossing the road of approaching vehicles and vice versa. It’s expected to become a smartphone feature beginning in 2018 but, like V2D, requires the presence of DSRC capabilities in vehicles. Ultimately, the DSRC version of V2P will be replaced by a higher-performance LTE version starting in 2020.
While there aren’t any V2P solutions currently available, this area is a hotbed of development, particularly when one includes the full gamut of possible technologies and includes multiple vehicle types such as public transit. Given the significant role that V2P can play in preventing damage to humans, the U.S. Department of Transportation maintains and updates a database of technologies in process. Of the current 86 V2P technologies listed, none are yet commercially available but a number are currently undergoing field tests.
A particularly fruitful approach to developing effective V2P products is a research partnership between telecom and automotive companies. For example, Honda R&D Americas and Qualcomm collaborated on a DSRC system that sends warnings to both a car’s heads-up display and a pedestrian’s device screen when there is a chance of colliding. Although the project won an award as an outstanding transportation system, there’s no word yet when this might appear commercially.
In another collaboration, Hitachi Automotive Systems teamed with Clarion, the Japan-based manufacturer of in-car infotainment products, navigation systems and more on a V2P solution that predicts pedestrian movements and rapidly calculates optimum speed patterns in real time. Undergoing field testing, this is another promising product to look for in the future.
Vehicle to Home (V2H)
Vehicle to Home (V2H) communication involves linkage between a vehicle and the owner’s domicile, sharing the task of providing energy. During emergency or power outages, the vehicle’s battery can be used as a power source. Given the reality of severe weather and its effect on power supplies, this capability has been needed for a while, with disruptions in power after storms and other weather emergencies impacting many thousands of U.S. families annually.
V2H is a two-way street, with the vehicle powering the home and vice versa based on cost and demand for home energy. The car battery is used for energy storage, taking place when energy is cheap or “green.”
During power outages, power from a vehicle’s battery can be used to run domestic appliances and power can be drawn from the vehicle when utility prices are high. In areas with frequent power outages, the battery can be used to buffer energy to avoid flickering, and it can be used as an emergency survival kit.
It’s expected that V2H will kick into higher gear in 2019, playing a significant role when the number of plug-in hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) and Electric Vehicles (EVs) make up over 20% of the total new cars sold in the United States. But a few projects have been underway for a while, such as a Nissan V2H solution that was already tested widely in Japan and launched in 2012 as the “Leaf to Home” V2H Power Supply System. Relying on an EV power station unit from Nichicon, this was one of the first backup power supply systems using an EV’s large-capacity battery.
Other Japanese car manufacturers have dabbled in these systems, including Mitsubishi and Toyota. Mitsubishi announced in 2014 that its Outlander PHEV vehicle could be used to power homes—only in Japan so far. There are other approaches to utilizing an EV’s battery for home use, such as some currently available devices that can not only charge a battery, but also supply the stored electricity to the home. One example is the SEVD-VI cable from Sumitomo Electric.
Vehicle to Grid (V2G)
Vehicle to Grid (V2G) communication is a system in which EVs communicate with the power grid to return electricity to the grid or throttle the vehicle’s charging rate. It will be an element in some EVs like plug-in models and is used as a power grid modulator to dynamically adjust energy demand.
A benefit of V2G is helping maintain the grid level and acting as a renewable power source alternative. This system could determine the best time to charge car batteries and enable energy flow in the opposite direction for shorter periods when the public grid is in need of power and the vehicle is not.
Given its key role in battery charging, this V2X technology is appearing soon—in affordable EVs like the Tesla model 3, which can now be advance ordered. Other products and companies like Faraday Future, NextEV, Apple Car, Uber and Lyft are all planning to launch EVs between 2017-2020. V2G is an extremely relevant area because it creates the obvious need for cities to start thinking and planning now about how they will support a large-scale EV society. Otherwise, energy utility companies will be in a panic situation and may resort to drastic measures such as rationing energy per household.Other activity in the V2G area includes a partnership between Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and BMW to test the ability of EV batteries to provide services to the grid. The automaker created a large energy storage unit made from re-utilized lithium-ion batteries while enlisting San Francisco Bay Area drivers of BMW 100 i3 cars to take part in what’s called the ChargeForward program. A pilot study, this now-underway project is giving qualifying i3 drivers up to $1,540 in charging incentives.
Another intriguing effort involves Nissan and Spain’s largest electric utility, which collaborated on a mass-market V2G system that was initially demonstrated in Spain last year but is aimed at the European market. Like the BMW/PG&E program, this also involves re-purposed EV batteries for stationary energy storage. V2G is a very promising market pegged to surpass $190 million worldwide by 2022 according to industry analysts.
Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I)
Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) communication will likely be the last V2X system to appear. It’s the wireless exchange of critical safety and operational data between vehicles and roadway infrastructure, like traffic lights. V2I alerts drivers of upcoming red lights and prevents traffic congestion. The system will streamline traffic and enable drivers to maneuver away from heavy traffic flow.
Despite the enormous impact this technology will have on driver safety, the degree of infrastructure investment required is so massive that it will take time to implement. Some question whether DSRC-based V2I with its questionable return on investment will ever take place, but there is more hope for LTE-based V2I.
This approach might play a key role starting in 2020 and be rolling along by 2022. Nevertheless, there are promising V2I projects already happening in countries where it’s easier to conduct massive public initiatives, such as China. A field test being run on public roads in Taicang, Jiangsu Province, China, involves buses that receive road condition data and thus can avoid stopping at lights when safe. Tongji University and Denso Corporation developed this project.
Another recent collaboration involves Siemens and Cohda Wireless to develop intelligent road signs and traffic lights in which critical safety and operational data is exchanged with equipped vehicles. In the United States, DOT is highly involved in working with state and local transportation agencies along with researchers and private-sector stakeholders to develop and test V2I technologies through test beds and pilot deployments.
Communication is the next frontier of car technology, and this is the bedrock of all the V2X capabilities appearing in the future. And none too soon. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the incidence of traffic fatalities will continue to expand across the globe as vehicles are more prevalent. WHO notes that this increase is 67 percent through 2020. Having smarter, safer cars and communications systems for the drivers, pedestrians and cyclists who can be impacted by these vehicles could turn around this trend. Add to that the aspects of flexible electricity storage and usage, and V2X becomes an even more promising technology.
Mahbubul Alam is CTO and CMO of Movimento Group. A frequent author, speaker and multiple patent holder in the area of the new software defined car and all things IoT. He was previously a strategist for Cisco’s Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) platforms. Read more from Mahbubul at http://mahbubulalam.com/blog/.