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Car makers and telco giants join forces for Car-to-X communication tech.

Audi AG, BMW Group, and Daimler AG, together with telecommunications giants develop the future of car communications

German premium car makers form 5G Automotive Association with telecommunication giants to spearhead implementation of ‘Car-to-X’ communications technology.

Although technological progress might appear as an individual achievement, bringing autonomous mobility to a broader and widespread application would require a team effort. This is why Audi AG, BMW Group, and Daimler AG, together with telecommunications giants, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia, and Qualcomm have come together to form what is known as the ‘5G Automotive Association’.

The association’s end goal is to accelerate the commercial availability and global market penetration of ‘Car-to-X’ communications technology. That being said, the association will be involved in developing, testing and promoting communication solutions for cars and infrastructure. This also includes supporting the standardisation of the technology, engage regulatory bodies, acquire certification, and undergo approval processes, while addressing technical challenges such as security, privacy, and cloud computing distribution. On top of that the association also plans to run joint innovation and development projects, with large scale pilot programmes and trial deployments.

With the emergence of 5G mobile networks, automakers are seeing the potential to deliver car-to-everything communications technology, or otherwise known as ‘Car-to-X’.

This technology also allows cars to hook up to infrastructures to find empty parking spaces.

As highlighted by Audi’s ‘swarm intelligence’, this technology has the capability of allowing the cars themselves to transmit information on traffic hazards or changes in the road conditions between one another. This technology also allows cars to hook up to infrastructures to find empty parking spaces or even time their approach to traffic lights as to arrive just as the lights turn green.

Going in line with the shift towards the ‘Internet of Things’, the technology has the capability of greatly improving safety and reduce or eliminate traffic congestion, as well as enabling cars to integrate themselves into a city’s infrastructure.

The widespread integration of such technology would allow autonomous vehicles to see far beyond the peripheral vision of their onboard sensors and cameras. 

Effectively the system could enable such cars to steer clear of hazards, congested roads, and respond quickly to changing traffic speeds and conditions that are far beyond its vicinity.

While ‘Car-to-X’ technology has been around for years, it has never been rolled out to mainstream applications due to issues such as standardisation, and also the technical challenge of achieving the data transfer loads required.

Back in 2011 Continental AG demonstrated the potential of their ‘Car-to-X’ technology, and while the hardware was available to make all this possible back then, its developers admit that the biggest hurdle to overcome is data transfer. According to their estimates the amount of data transmitted between one car to the other or to another infrastructure was measured in megabytes. When combined with several such vehicles in the same area, the transfer loads could easily go into gigabytes.

The association believes that these next-generation telecommunications networks are able to handle much more data volume, with significantly reduced latency issues, and thus are able to transmit data reliably between sources and receivers. 

Despite its association to the big three German premium brands, the 5G Automotive Association says that their doors are open for other carmakers to join their programme. For now the association will more likely focus on developing the technology for the European market, though should their efforts prove successful, you can expect the standards and technology developed from this association to spread to other markets rather quickly.

Is this alliance the key to mainstream ‘Car-to-X’ tech? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Danny Kwan
Contributing Journalist
Danny Kwan is a former CarsGuide contributor, and an expert in the motoring industry. 
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