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Car to Everything Communication (V2X): Where does South Africa stand?

File picture: Honda via Newspress.

File picture: Honda via Newspress.

Published Aug 19, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Fast forward to 2025, less than half a decade away. It's a new world. It's a world populated with semi-autonomous cars. Electric or not, these vehicles will be able to transmit their position from anywhere on the planet to each other in an instant.

"It's a world where street lights and street signs alert the car of their presence, status and meaning. A world where pedestrians would be alerted by both road infrastructure and vehicles of possible dangers and changing travel situations," says Daniel Patrascu, senior editor at AutoEvolution.

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"It was a few years ago already, at the In&Out Digital Mobility event in Rennes (France) when Peugeot and Qualcomm presented the Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything technology (C-V2X). They said it was still some years away from real-life implementation, but this technology would allow humans and vehicles to interact in ways never dreamed possible on public roads."

Qualcomm is one of the first companies to offer fully integrated solutions for connected cars, enabling vehicles to speak to each other and their environment across 5G networks.

"Unless you're a hardcore vintage car enthusiast, you'll have noticed that vehicles are becoming increasingly connected, both to each other and to the outside world," adds Charles McLellan, autonomous vehicles expert from ZDNet.

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"With car operating systems running everything from infotainment to autonomous driving, vehicles are becoming ever more intelligent and less reliant on human operation. Vehicle users stand to benefit from safer, greener, and more efficient journeys thanks to copious sensors and onboard connectivity, while car manufacturers, tech companies, and communications providers have a whole new market to compete in.“

WHAT IS V2X?

V2X is an acronym for 'vehicle to everything'. This is the "umbrella term" for the vehicle's communications systems, where information from sensors and cameras and lidar and radar travel via extremely high-bandwidth, yet low-latency, high-reliability links. These three things, high bandwidth, low latency and reliability remain the key factors that determine how fast South African cars join the rest of the world in the greater V2X landscape; ultimately paving the way to fully autonomous driving according to both Patrascu and McLellan.

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The components of V2X include:

– Vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V)

– Vehicle-to-infrastructure communication (V2I)

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– Vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) communication, and

– Vehicle-to-network communication (V2N)

It's in this diverse and multi-faceted ecosystem that new vehicles will talk to other new cars, to infrastructures such as traffic lights or parking spaces, to smartphone-toting pedestrians, and to data centres via cellular networks.

Ford is committing to deploy cellular vehicle-to-everything technology   in all its new vehicle models in the US from 2022.

Volkswagen is rolling out connectivity in its cars in South Africa and Toyota is also putting more of its vehicles on the connected map. BMW, MINI, Mercedes, Porsche, they're already connected and communicating to each other in some way.

CONNECTED CARS IN SOUTH AFRICA

To find out more about how the local cellular networks are preparing for the rise in the number of connected cars in the country in the coming years, Drive360 spoke to Sudipto Moitra, General Manager for ICT Solutions at MTN Business, about some of the actions the company is undertaking to ensure the all-important reliability aspect of the connected car equation.

Drive360: According to telecoms providers, such as Qualcomm and Ericsson, 5G mobile networks will be key to providing reliable connectivity, those high-speed yet secure connections that enable V2X on a greater scale. Can you tell us if local networks are in fact preparing for V2X in South Africa as more manufacturers bring vehicles with this technology here in 2021 and beyond?

Sundipto Moitra: Connected cars may be seen as the thing of the future, but with the increasingly widespread use of 5G technology, connected cars are very much with us. The modern car is fast becoming a sensor-laden mobile Internet-of-Things (IoT) device, with considerable onboard computing power and communication systems devoted to telematics, V2X communication and infotainment. All of these systems use cellular and increasingly 5G technology, among others.

Sudipto Moitra.

Over the past few years MTN Business has been gearing for such innovations, in December 2017 MTN and Huawei launched Connected Driver, which uses the Internet-of-Things to monitor and assess driver behaviour and motivate better driving. The solution uses an on-board diagnostic (OBD) device that connects the car to a mobile app for private use or to a data-centre for commercial users like insurance or fleet management firms. Driver behaviour like speed and braking can be monitored and assessed, the solution can even sense driver fatigue and send out a warning to the driver to rest. This was followed by the launch of Cisco Jasper Control Center, an automated IoT connectivity platform, with particular interest from the connected car, vehicle tracking, building security and automation.

It is important to note that connected cars are impossible without seamless and reliable connectivity, such as 5G technology. Low latency is a key differentiator between 4G and 5G. This new generation technology will unlock the full capabilities of next-generation services including automated cars.

Our partnerships with companies such as Huawei and Cisco are the foundation of our IoT and connected services strategy. With the launch of 5G technology in the country, we anticipate more imports of smart vehicles in the country and we are gearing up to provide IoT services [to them] within the next two years.

Drive360: Vehicles such as BMWs new 5 Series and the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz S-Class will be relying heavily on over-the-air (OTA) updates using sim cards and the mobile network. As more and more vehicles move onto the cellular networks, will there be traffic congestion of sorts? Or are the sim cards that are used in vehicles a specific type of card that enables a connection?

Sundipto Moitra: We are currently building our IoT SIM lifecycle management platform, catered to manage all M2M traffic through the 4IR evolution and 5G. The platform will manage eSIM Profiles, Multi IMSI management and Global roaming among others. With regards to network congestion, the crucial requirement [to avoid congestion] is to have a dedicated spectrum. We are looking forward to the most anticipated auction of high demand spectrum later this year. The additional spectrum will bring much relief in our radio network – which will result in seamless connectivity.

Drive360: Data rates are a contentious issue in South Africa, and with more cars expected to consume data in future, do you think that networks ought to look at offering automotive-based data subscription packages? IE: A 10gb package for just the car for a month?

Sundipto Moitra: MTN currently offers various data packages that cater to various consumer and enterprise needs. Data packages for connected cars will be determined once we have complete connected car services and solutions.

Drive360: Do you think that South African consumers are ready for car-to-car communication as well as car-to-everything communication? What are the greater sentiments around data privacy, and data sharing? Do you think that it will be easier to, for lack of a better term, "hack" into cars to steal them or corrupt internal systems?

Sundipto Moitra: There has not been huge publicity about connected cars in South Africa, and one of the challenges is affordability and transport infrastructure.

MTN Business is constantly evolving and adapting to the changing conditions of the market and customer demands with huge focus ensuring we have as little risk on our network as possible. We have bold security measures in place, and we comply with POPI act and ICASA regulations. Consumers can rest assured that when more and more cars come online, we will do our best to keep their data protected and their connections secure as possible to prevent intrusion.

If you would like to learn more about V2X, contact MTN Business for information.

Drive360

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