Cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology developed by Qualcomm will soon give the Audi Q8 the ability to deliver work zone warnings on highways and provide traffic light timing information in cities via its digital instrument cluster. The German firm will enable the feature in the third quarter of 2020 on select roads in northern Virginia, where its American headquarters are located.
Audi, Qualcomm, and Virginia’s Department of Transportation (VDOT) identified construction zones as an important use case for this trial because the men and women working on the nation’s highways put their lives at risk on a daily basis. The Q8 receives construction zone-related information from Qualcomm’s 9150 chipset and emits visual and audible warnings ahead of time. It regularly reminds drivers they’re about to enter a construction zone, and the last signal it sends is a reliable, low-latency warning that informs motorists they’re about to drive past workers. The system stays quiet if there is no one around, such as when work stops at night or on the weekend.
Information from traffic signals takes a similar path to the Q8’s instrument cluster, so drivers know how long they need to wait until the light turns green. This feature is already available in select Audi models, but the Qualcomm 9150 chip makes the countdown much more accurate by speeding up the connection between the car and the infrastructure. The firm noted its chip is 5G-compatible, meaning additional improvements are around the corner.
Looking further ahead, Audi envisions its cars will gain the ability to communicate with pedestrians via their smartphones, providing an extra layer of connectivity that could prevent fatalities caused by distracted drivers and walkers alike. Autonomous cars, like Audi’s own AI:Me city car concept, will also benefit from C-V2X technology when they finally begin dotting the urban landscape. They’ll share information with each other in real time.
On a secondary but more lasting level, the partnership illustrates what Hildegard Wortmann, Audi’s sales and marketing boss, meant when she told me the car will turn into an open platform during the 2020s. The company hasn’t announced what’s next yet, but it’s reasonable to assume it will form additional alliances with other firms outside of the automotive industry in the coming years to inject new, smarter tech into its range of models.
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