How Will Vehicle-To-Everything (V2X) Communication Transform Your Car?


A casual mention of Vehicle to Everything, or V2X,  in a mailing list, led me to a short article, and that led to much more. It made me aware of a project that may make huge changes to how we get around.

Roads can measure cars in very limited ways today with inductive loops at traffic signal stopping areas. And, in slightly more sophisticated ways with cameras. But what if there were a much more complete mesh of communication? I once wrote here about the massively broadband near future. What happens when the Internet of Things includes our cars and their environments?


Vehicle-to-Everything, or V2X, is communication between a vehicle and everything with which it might interact. This includes other vehicles, traffic signals, toll collection devices, parking fee collection devices, pedestrians, and anything else related to traffic.

So far V2X has mostly been limited to toll collection in Europe, Japan, and Singapore. For toll collection, it’s much like the E-ZPass system used in the eastern U.S. but with looser, perhaps no, speed restrictions at toll points.

Frequency bands around 5.9 GHz have been set aside in the U.S. and Europe, but the systems used so far in East Asia, the U.S., and Europe are incompatible. Plus, as The Economist mentioned in an article about Uber, autonomous vehicle deployment is now restricted more by regulations than by technology. Finally, Vehicle-to-Everything isn’t complete without its Vehicle-to-Vehicle component, and that will always be limited in the U.S. by the presence of old cars on the road.

But a form of V2X is coming.

River Road, West Lafayette, Indiana
Inductive sensing loops at an intersection.

What Could V2X Provide?

I was in New York City recently, in Midtown Manhattan with a regular rectangular grid of streets, tall buildings, and lots of traffic. I happened to be standing where I could see an ambulance trying to make its way down one street. The traffic signal changed in its favor, but then cross traffic got in its way. The drivers probably all heard the siren, but you hear sirens all the time in Manhattan. In that area, the tall buildings block and reflect sounds. You can’t reliably tell the direction or distance of a siren. I saw the ambulance, but they couldn’t.

V2X could potentially not only command the traffic signals to change to clear traffic and let the emergency vehicle through, but it could provide a “pop-up” warning for drivers in other vehicles. Stop where you are, or keep moving and then pull to the side to clear the way.

And not just for emergency vehicles. What if a vehicle’s path and velocity suggest that the driver is going to pass through a red light? An emergency warning could appear for drivers approaching the intersection from the cross street. Emergency braking could even be applied to the rogue vehicle or those about to enter the danger zone.

Let’s add convenience to safety. Signals need a long view. No more seeing a green light in the distance that, of course, goes red as you approach.

Northwestern Avenue and Stadium Drive, West Lafayette, Indiana
Traffic signal control box. With V2X this would need millimeter-wave connectivity and a fiber optic backhaul link.

A Bright Future! But Work Remains

There will be some technical issues to iron out. But we’re working on it.

Vehicle platooning research is already underway in the U.S. and Europe. See the details at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of California at Berkeley, and the European Commission’s “Safe Road Trains for the Environment” or SARTRE project. Also, the Acceleration Studies Foundation has a broad overview of future highway research projects.

Companies like Ethertronics are already developing electronically steerable small antennas for Y2X.

A move from the 5.9 GHz band up to millimeter-wave bands at 50 GHz and up will greatly improve performance in cluttered urban environments, as Ted Rappaport described in Microwave Journal.

Finally, V2X requires cybersecurity!

V2X and Cybersecurity

Privacy – Who will be able to see the records of your movements around town or the country? Can they simply look at them at will? Or will it require something like a legal warrant?

Integrity – If the police (and maybe insurance companies, and private investigators, and divorce lawyers, and who knows who else) are going to have access to your movement records (under very tight restrictions, we hope!), you want to make sure that what they see is correct.

System intrusion – Since these communication links could potentially over-ride the driver’s control inputs, we must make malicious intrusion extremely difficult and unlikely.

V2X seems far off, but the technology is changing rapidly. Check out Learning Tree’s System and Network Security Introduction course for details on strong cryptographic-based systems for privacy, integrity, and authentication for secure control.

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