A few years ago, the talk for vehicle communications, including vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure/grid (V2I/V2G) was all about Wi-Fi – to the point that the US regulators were considering saving a band for it. Now, Ford has gone all-in with 5G instead.
The bandwidth being saved, a derivative of Wi-Fi, has been commonly called the "Dedicated Short-Range Communications" band, or DSRC. Automakers like Toyota and General Motors have been largely all-in on this idea. Government agencies like the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Department of Transportation (DOT), however, have been more tentative given the costs associated with infrastructure to support it. Those agencies have instead been looking to cellular options in the new-generation 5G spectrum.
Ford has very clearly stepped away from support for DSRC by announcing that its comm channel of choice is 5G. The automaker gives several reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that non-government enterprises (mostly cellular network providers) have already begun aggressively rolling out 5G networking capabilities nationally. Ford plans to piggyback on that already-existing infrastructure with what it (and the DOT) agree is a safer, more reliable option for V2G and V2V communications.
The 5G option, commonly called cellular-vehicle-to-everything (or c-V2X) is a bit controversial given that there are no government regulations for using it. Ford seems to think that this is a Field of Dreams scenario, where if they build it, the rest will come. The company says it wants to accelerate V2X technologies by moving forward with what it sees as the best choice.
This C-V2X option does have its shining points. 5G broadband is about 10 times faster than current broadband, for example, and much more open for use. Billions are already being spent by telecoms in infrastructure upgrades for 5G, and the networks are readily accessible by a variety of devices. Consumer devices such as cell phones are also already poised to use the technology, and because those devices are on those networks already, pedestrian detection and other options become available as part of the c-V2X web.
Ford plans to put its devices in cars as of 2022, though most models will have cellular modems as standard equipment by the end of this year.
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