Your next car will talk to crosswalks, pay your tolls, and find its own parking

v2x communications will change the way you drive feature 5

Many years ago, I was crossing the street on the way to school. The crossing guard held out the stop sign for me and my friends, and we started across the street. A car in the nearest lane obediently stopped, and we walked to the second lane without thinking about it. But a driver coming up fast in that lane didn’t see us until we emerged from behind the stopped car. He slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop just a few feet from our surprised faces. As scared as we were, that driver was flat terrified. We all walked on, but I’ve never forgotten that moment.

Fast forward to the present, and I’ve just seen technology that made me recall that day.

At the Bosch proving grounds near Detroit, Michigan, Bosch engineers showed Digital Trends how roads in the future will communicate with vehicles and let them know when people are crossing. That’s just one application of a coming technology called vehicle-to-anything communications, or V2X.

What is V2X?

V2X is based on Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), which is a short- to medium-range wireless standard that permits very high data-transmission rates. It’s very close to Wi-Fi, and the maximum range is about 1,000 feet.

DSRC operates on dedicated frequencies on the 5.9 GHz band, and both cars and infrastructure can send and receive the signal.

Both cars and infrastructure can send and receive the signal. So for example, simple cameras could register the presence of people in a crosswalk, and the intersection hardware can broadcast that information using DSRC to notify approaching cars of that fact. The cars would then flash a message to their drivers, and pre-charge their own automatic emergency braking systems, just in case.

But here’s another thing: Communication can be two-way, with the cars transmitting information about their status, as well as receiving information from the roadway infrastructure. So cars can talk to other cars (Vehicle to Vehicle or V2V) as well as the infrastructure (V2I).

“What each vehicle is doing is transmitting what’s called a basic safety message,” says Bosch product and engineering manager Phil Ventimiglia. “Within that basic safety message, which is transmitted 10 times a second, there’s a whole host of information about the vehicle itself. It contains the vehicle heading, vehicle speed, and GPS location. It also contains information about the vehicle’s size, the acceleration of the vehicle, the brake status of the vehicle, among other things. The vehicle that’s about to be warned is listening to that, constantly.”

v2x communications will change the way you drive feature 1

While at Bosch’s proving ground, we saw a demonstration of two vehicles approaching an intersection at right angles. V2V communication with that basic safety message allowed them to avoid a collision in much the same way that current automatic emergency braking works.

“Other automated systems work well, obviously,” Ventimiglia observes, “so the radars and the camera systems can help with those type of scenarios. Where V2X excels is when there’s no line of sight for the camera or the radar. The V2X can still listen and hear that other vehicle coming.”

Can V2X handle the real world?

Watching two vehicles demonstrate the tech in a controlled environment is one thing, but we wondered what happens when you’re in the middle of a traffic jam.

“Let’s say in very high-density situations it could be a lot of vehicles, theoretically hundreds,” Ventimiglia explains. “But we also have technology built in, what we call congestion control, so as we detect that a lot of vehicles are also transmitting, we decrease the power output of the system. We effectively reduce the range of the vehicles themselves, so you can’t listen and hear as many other vehicles in the environment, so your scope is reduced. Because obviously the vehicles that are very close to you are the ones that you’re more interested in.”

Another example of V2V application is reducing the “accordion effect.”

Cadillac released a statement stating that the brand will release V2X in at least one crossover SUV by 2023.

“There’s one application that we call electronic emergency brake light,” Ventimiglia says. “If you imagine your vehicle, and there’s a vehicle ahead of you, and one more vehicle ahead of that, if the driver all the way in the front hits the brakes hard, it creates a chain reaction. But now when this vehicle brakes, and he’s transmitting on DSRC, your car knows instantly, and you don’t have that kind of chain reaction of brakes piling up.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation has a list of potential DSRC applications for V2V and V2I applications, including do-not-pass warnings, intersection collision avoidance and movement assistance, approaching emergency vehicle warning, emergency vehicle signal priority, rollover warning, commercial vehicle clearance and safety inspections, parking and toll payments, and traffic or travel condition data to improve traveler information and maintenance services.

Crowdsourcing a parking spot

Another use for V2X is to help you find parking in crowded areas. It works a lot like the other functions, but it uses ultrasonic sensors. Here’s how it works: Participating vehicles have programming to note the location of available parking spaces when suitable spaces are perceived by their cameras. That information is reported using the vehicle’s cellular connection and other participating cars can display the locations of nearby available parking spaces on their navigation systems in real time. Bosch has this system working today, and demonstrated it for us in downtown Detroit.

v2x communications will change the way you drive feature 2

“I think Bosch is well positioned there, and could actually combine a lot of those technologies together, and use V2X data as really an additional sensor in the vehicle to make life a little more convenient for the drivers, as well as more safe,” Ventimiglia says.

But is it secure?

Data security is one of the first concerns that comes to mind with any new tech, and DSRC is no exception. Can V2X communications be put to criminal uses? Certainly someone will try, and they might succeed, but engineers like Ventimiglia are doing their best to anticipate problems.

Within that basic safety message there’s a whole host of information about the vehicle itself.

“We provide a security prudential management system in the box, and we can also provide the back-end solutions,” he says. “So that when a vehicle or an infrastructure is transmitting the messages, they’re signed and secure. The vehicles make sure they only listen to the signed messages, and then you would know that you can trust the system, that somebody isn’t trying to spook a vehicle or an infrastructure.”

There’s also V2G

If you thought all the applications of V2X have been listed, think again. There’s also the potential for this technology to eliminate trips to the DMV or the smog station. While your vehicle is talking to the infrastructure, it can also relay messages about your car’s emissions control systems, and automatically renew your registration, or pay road tolls and parking charges. Collectively, these functions are known as V2G – Vehicle to Government communications.

When will you have this on your car?

The point of Bosch’s demonstrations was to give us an advance look at the technology coming down the line in the next few years. “We’ve received some inquiries from automakers and we’ve responded to those, and we’re waiting for the industry to basically source and move forward,” Ventimiglia says.

Not coincidentally, within days of experiencing this technology in Bosch’s backyard, Cadillac released a statement stating that the brand will release V2X in at least one crossover SUV by 2023 and eventually expand the technology across Cadillac’s portfolio. Cadillac first introduced V2V communications using DSRC on the CTS sedan in 2017.

v2x communications will change the way you drive feature 3
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, announced these plans at the Intelligent Transportation Society’s annual conference in Detroit.

“The expansion of Super Cruise and V2X communications technology demonstrates Cadillac’s commitment to innovation, and to making customers’ lives better,” Reuss said.

Toyota has also announced plans to move forward with V2X on both the Toyota and Lexus brands, as has Volkswagen/Audi, and Ford. Other automakers such as Volvo are working on related technologies.


Bosch is developing a Rosetta Stone for autonomous and connected cars

Bosch and start-up Veniam want to create a common language that autonomous and connected cars can use. The two firms have developed a connectivity unit that transcends the national boundaries of technology.

This external airbag turns your entire car into a crumple zone to save lives

German components manufacturer ZF will test an external side airbag in 2019. It's essentially the same technology as the airbag mounted inside every new car but it deploys over the side of the vehicle to reduce the severity of injuries.
Emerging Tech

How to register your drone with the FAA

Before you take to the skies with your new drone, you need to make sure it has been properly registered with the U.S. government. Check our guide for registration requirements and easy, step-by-step instructions on how to complete your…

Did that car just wink at you? Daimler previews car-to-pedestrian signals

Eager to show off progress with autonomous cars and perhaps do some consumer softening as well, Daimler and Bosch previewed car-to-pedestrian communications. A sensor-loaded Mercedes S appears to wink to acknowledge a pedestrian's presence.

Uber is about to restart self-driving car tests but on a reduced scale

Uber is reported to be on the verge of restarting its autonomous-car test program. The company halted it in March 2018 following a fatal accident involving one of its vehicles, but its cars could be back on the road within weeks.

Aston Martin bets classic car owners will choose volts over carburetors

Aston Martin has converted one of its most sought-after classic models to run on electricity instead of gasoline. The roadster uses electric components sourced from the upcoming Rapide E sedan.
Product Review

Audi built an electric SUV for buyers who want gasoline-free to mean stress-free

We finally got to spend time behind the wheel of the electric 2019 Audi E-Tron bustling cities and arid desert of the United Arab Emirates to see how it compares with Jaguar and Tesla's competitors.

Volkswagen may be planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car may head to the Nürburgring in 2019 for a lap-record attempt, according to a new report. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car.

600-hp, $155K Polestar 1 is the alluring Volvo coupe you’ve been waiting for

Volvo's return to the coupe segment just took an interesting turn: the model will join the Polestar lineup, and it will get a 600-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Polestar 1 will be built in China starting in 2019.

The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake is the sexiest wagon ever

Aston Martin has revealed new photos of the limited-production Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake. The Vanquish Zagato line now includes the Shooting Brake, Coupe, Volante, and Speedster, each with bespoke styling.

Nissan and Italdesign’s GT-R50 concept will become a $1.1 million reality

The Nissan GT-R50 is a customized sports car built to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the GT-R and design firm Italdesign. Underneath the sleek bodywork sits a 710-horsepower engine fortified with race car components.

Ford’s new Shelby GT500 Mustang will have 3D-printed brake parts

Ford's new $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center will focus on emerging technologies, including 3D printing. One of the staff's first jobs is to print parts for the 700-horsepower Shelby GT500 Mustang.

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.

World’s fastest electric race car to display at Petersen Museum

The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak race car smashed the all-time record at the hill climb for which it was named. The all-electric VW record-holder will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until February 1, 2019.