Ford says its future V2X-equipped cars will talk to pedestrians, infrastructure

Ford C-V2X explainer

Ford plans to equip its future automobiles with “vehicle-to-everything” (V2X) communication tech that will allow them to “talk” to each other and connected infrastructure. V2X has been discussed as a way to improve safety, but implementing it will be a “daunting challenge,” Don Butler, executive director of Ford’s connected vehicle platform and product, noted in a Medium post. He also discussed some of the technical challenges to widespread V2X use, and how Ford is trying to tackle them.

Several automakers are interested in V2X, but Ford will use a specific version called C-V2X, short for “cellular vehicle-to-everything.” Ford thinks C-V2X is the best option, but because other automakers and government entities are considering alternative tech, interoperability may be a problem, Butler noted. C-V2X also relies on 5G, so Ford’s plans will be dependent on the smooth rollout of that communications tech.

One of the promised benefits of V2X is that it will be able to warn drivers about things they cannot see, such as pedestrians or other cars in blind spots. But to keep track of pedestrians, a V2X system will need to communicate with them. Most people carry Bluetooth-enabled phones, so Ford is working on a way for its V2X-equipped cars to interface with Bluetooth, Butler said.

Ford is developing a roadside “interpreter” that can translate signals between different wireless communication technologies, Butler said. That should allow interoperability between the C-V2X system in a future Ford car, the Bluetooth signals emitted by a pedestrian’s smartphone or wearable device, and signals from other sources, Butler said. Pedestrians could use their phones to signal their intent to cross a street, then receive confirmation from nearby cars that it’s safe to go, Butler said.

V2X could also act as a referee of sorts between human drivers and self-driving cars. Ford is working on a system that decides which cars get right of way at intersections, Butler said. Human drivers can normally sort this out with hand gestures and eye contact, but that won’t be an option when no one is driving.

Ford previously said that it will add C-V2X to every new vehicle it sells in the United States by 2022. The technology requires a large network of connected vehicles to effectively deliver a steady stream of information to drivers. But even if all new Ford cars are equipped to “talk” to each other, equipping related infrastructure and working the bugs out of the tech will still be a big job.

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