Vodafone demonstrates connected car over LTE at MWC

Monday 6 March 2017 | 14:57 CET | Background

Audi, Huawei and Vodafone demonstrated at Mobile World Congress Cooperative Vehicle-to-X (C-V2X) services over LTE, showing new services such as driver alerts and video. The aim was to show that many of the opportunities offered by the connected car, such as improved safety, are possible even over 4G. The demonstration was conducted by Vodafone UK in cooperation with Audi and Huawei. At the Grand Prix circuit in Barcelona, the companies used the test track for demonstrations to the press with three customised Audis. 

Local LTE network

Bob Banks, R&D programme manager at Vodafone UK, explained that two Q7 SUVs were fitted with 'boxes' to carry the required radio equipment. At the same time, mobile technology is already so ingrained in the cars that the V2X services were visible in the dashboard, on the digital screen right behind the steering wheel. The services run over servers at Audi in Ingolstadt.

Vodafone Spain has considerable capacity on its mobile network already around the race track, after expanding for busy race days. For the tests, Vodafone and Huawei used the standard base stations for the separated LTE network, with TDD spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band. Four scenarios were demonstrated in the test set-up. 

Two of the cases were based on vehicle-to-vehicle communication. When the test driver of the white Audi A4 makes an emergency stop, the two Q7s riding behind him receive visible and audible alarms in their cars. The video images taken by the camera in the first car are also viewable on the dashboard of the two cards behind. ‘Transparent cars’ like this make traffic safer, Banks noted. 

The two other cases demonstrated the surrounding area communicating with the car. The driver of the connected car receives a warning from a traffic light and a pedestrian (a doll in this case) along the road. In the latter case, the person has an app on his or her smartphone that can warn the cars. 

Services development

Development is well underway on such services, and definitions and standards still need to be set. How and when the services will be available is not yet clear. Much will depend on regulators - meaning patience. Development is progressing slowly, despite a small number of vehicles on the road already showing positive effects. 

Vodafone's Banks noted that the eCall system was discussed for around 20 years before it was finally implemented. This EU system requires every new car to have a mobile unit that automatically contacts the emergency services in the event of a crash and provides the vehicle's location. This service was invented in the days of 2G and 3G. 

The 802.11p technology, for ad hoc communication networks between vehicles, also took a long time. Spectrum in the 5.9 Ghz band is available for this, which allows vehicles to send each other warnings and trucks to ride more closely together (platooning). 

From 4G to 5G

Vodafone proposes communicating over the 4G network, which is already widely available. The companies which participated in the tests at MWC are closely involved with the development of V2X. Vodafone, Audi and Huawei are all members of the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), which is working on the development of the connected car as part of the 5G roadmap. 

Part of the work can already be done using LTE. The 4.5G Pro standard, outlined in 3GPP Release 13, includes a chapter on V2X. The sector can use this as a building block, although the question remains whether LTE networks have enough capacity if a large number of vehicles starts streaming HD video. This is also why the operators and telecom equipment vendors are investing in more capacity along roads. Without this additional capacity, the opportunities of sharing real-time data with all the vehicles on the road will not be possible.

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