The DSRC vs. C-V2X debate continues in the United States, with domestic automakers like GM, and distributors like Toyota and Volkswagen doubling down on the once-universally-accepted DSRC platform, while Ford and BMW have forsaken DSRC in favor of C-V2X standard.
Over the summer, I researched the fight for platform standardization in the U.S. for the New York Times (the story is expected to appear in the Times soon.) While researching this topic, I had the occasion to interview two of BMW’s key people – Joachim Göthel and Maik Böres.
I began our conversation by asking whether the impression I had was correct, which is to say that BMW has formally rejected the DSRC-like ‘G5’ platform in Europe and Asia in favor of C-V2X.
Joachim Göthel: Yes, that is our position. From the technology perspective that I represent, it is clearly the better technology and fully aligned with all the cellular ecosystem. Therefor, we think this technology will overtake [DSRC] even if some countries adopt DSRC.
HAVstory: [Earlier this summer] BMW announced that momentum was already moving towards C-V2X in China. From a marketing perspective, does that make the choice easier?
Maik Böres: I think for us, it’s not a marketing decision. Ten years ago, we were focused on DSRC technology but many things have changed. So we’ve left the C2C-CC and we’re now fully committed to C-V2X. We do see that if it comes to C-V2X we’ll have one technology and one chipset, whereas if you want to bring DSRC into the market you have a separate and parallel investment, for an infrastructure that is there only for the automotive industry, which doesn’t make sense. So it’s not a marketing perspective, it’s technologically efficient to converge on C-V2X.
HAVstory: When did BMW come to this conclusion?
Böres: We left the C2C-CC over five years ago. We had the feeling that there was something new popping up that had greater market potential and from there on we clearly decided that we were heading for C-V2X technology.
HAVstory: What specific technical advantages do you see in C-V2X?
Göthel: C-V2X really reflects on safety properties. First there’s a better range, four to even more times greater, which offers more safety in real world scenarios. For example, it would be very stressful to get a warning about a stalled vehicle on the highway only 150 meters away, especially at high speeds found in German highway driving. The DSRC range is 200 meters, and less if there are other things in the line of sight.
There are other properties of C-V2X radio technology, especially in densely populated areas where you have many vehicles around you. Imagine a traffic jam in a motorway in the other direction. So you might have hundreds of cars within your broadcast range. In DSRC this will lead to congestion in the spectrum. Cellular technology is much better able to handle this kind of traffic. So that also acts on safety in real driving situations.
HAVstory: How much of a delay will there be, as a result of choosing not to deploy the already-proven DSRC system?
Göthel: At the risk of sounding provocative, I would say that there will not be a delay, because DSRC has not really been tested for mass industrialization. For example, there is no security system available – none at all. So you cannot launch any DSRC device that would meet our – BMW’s – security requirements.
You would have to really complete the actions that have been initiated by the DSRC community years ago but I would say, half-way, they stopped all the activities. You know with the stop of, or low prioritization of the NPRM [notice of proposed rule-making] in the United States, all the resources and all the budget was stopped in 2017 so there is no security system, no public key infrastructure, no ACS system [I’m not sure if he meant ‘access control system’ or ‘anonymous certification services’ – MG] So it’s just not true that a supplier can supply you with ECUs in large scale that would work according to our security regulations. So therefor, for me it’s not really true that DSRC is ready to be launched in mass production volume.
Böres: What most people forget or maybe even deny is, there are a lot of use cases already implemented; we have a lot of hazard warnings already rolled out in different markets which warn people for heavy rain, slippery spots, and for us this is an implementation of two parallel technologies, one is the mobile network, long range, and there’s direct short range.
With the long-range system we have the possibility to send a lot of data to a centralized back end to analyze the data, if there’s a real problem and to send data back to vehicles that are being affected by that hazard
HAVstory: So has the readiness of DSRC been exaggerated?
Göthel: Yes, at least a little bit.
HAVstory: Do you think that the competition between standards has slowed deployment?
Göthel: No, I don’t think it has had any effect. There’s nothing to hinder the DSRC community from bringing their solution to market, at least not here in Europe and I think also in the U.S.
What we’re looking at here in Europe is how to best make use of the 5.9 GHz bandwidth, but there is a clear announcement from VW that they want to deploy DSRC beginning in 2019. That’s what it is; there’s no question about that. The question is how will we have a technology-neutral bandwidth, how we can use both technologies in that bandwidth.
HAVstory: Of course in the US that bandwidth is reserved for DSRC. If there was to be a situation where VW was standardized on DSRC and BMW was standardized on C-V2X, do you imagine a situation where at some point the two systems could communicate with each other?
Göthel: I think direct communication between the two standards on the radio level is not possible but it is clear that those two standards have to communicate somehow. That can be solved through the back-end systems, how information gets shared in the back end, with a higher level of communication between the two standards. The exchange of messages would happen on the back end.
If you want to enhance road safety you must have scalable systems and scalable systems within the automotive is difficult because of the small number of vehicles that get replaced each year. If you look at all the IoT devices or smart phones, they’re being replaced every two or three years. The C-V2X technology will be implemented in IoT and cell phones in years to come and there you have a huge volume increase. That’s why we at BMW say let both technologies go through the bandwidth, and let the market decide.
HAVstory: Are you envisioning a future in which mobile phones communicate directly with C-V2X systems in cars?
Böres: Yes, the IoT devices, mobile phones, could serve as a sort of retrofit and there you can equip all the vehicles that weren’t equipped with either DSRC or C-V2X when they were built. That’s clearly the target.
Göthel: This also goes for integrating the smart phone technology for vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists, who are not accessible to DSRC systems. You would not carry another device with you in parallel with your smart phone, and DSRC is far too expensive to integrate into smart phones. The technology and integrated chipset has already been announced by Huawei, and they will spread it worldwide. In our view, this will be standard in coming years.