Saving lives with cellular networks and Intelligent Transport Systems

Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) are expected to deliver safety, efficiency, environmental and comfort benefits to road users by exchanging traffic-related information between vehicles (V2V), vehicles and infrastructure (V2I) and vehicles and pedestrians (V2P). But in Europe they are in danger of being penalized by drafting procedures of the European Commission.

Exploring IoT strategies

C-ITS can be enabled by direct short-range communication standards such as ITS-G5 or LTE-V2X PC5 sidelink, on the 5.9 GHz spectrum, or by use of cellular networks via LTE Uu communication. LTE-V2X is part of the 5G roadmap, it is being successfully tested and, as a complement to cellular networks deployed already today, it enables the shortest time-to-effect on traffic safety and efficiency.

Safety and traffic efficiency can be significantly improved by delivering V2I notification messages related to real-time road information to the drivers, such as speed limits, traffic light phases and unsafe road conditions. The benefits are maximized by delivering such messages over cellular networks, reaching not only vehicles equipped with mobile connectivity, but even road users with smartphones (pedestrians, bicyclists).

European Commission (EU DG-MOVE) aims at C-ITS deployment starting 2019, based on common European rules captured in a “Delegated Act” currently being drafted and on a first set of identified services – so called “Day 1” use cases. It is important that the Delegated Act does not penalize competitive technologies and their evolution, for example by not including them in the first version of the document.

In such a case, the market would be led towards technological solutions that deliver a less safe but more expensive service for taxpayers, as discussed below. The effect would also be adverse for the European ecosystem, whose competitiveness depends on forward-looking technology choices by European decision-makers. We remark that technology neutrality is a well-established principle that should be followed by European regulations, and that similar concerns have been voiced even by GSMA. A similar strong concern has been expressed even by several automotive and telecom players in a joint letter.

EC has created the C-Roads pan-European organization to harmonize views on the various vehicles and infrastructure technology options (cellular and short-range) and to trial them. C-Roads has followed a phased approach in which ITS-G5 short range technology has been studied first and where work on cellular networks was initially postponed and is just now ramping up.

Part of the C-Roads budget is also being used for deployment of Road Side Units (RSU) with ITS-G5 short range radio technology along parts of European roads. Such a deployment prioritization is surprising, considering that a significant fraction of new vehicles already support cellular connectivity, and short-range communication is not yet commercially deployed and will deliver delayed C-ITS service penetration, compared to the cellular Uu-option.

Indeed, existing cellular networks’ capability to deliver C-ITS services in an interoperable framework has been demonstrated in a number of concept projects, such as the EU funded “Nordic way” project interconnecting Nordic road authorities and some major OEMs or the Duch MoT funded “Talking traffic” in the Netherlands.

connected urban transport

Click here to learn more about NordicWay project.

Interestingly, private companies such as HERE are already interconnecting a number of major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) using cellular networks. Even more surprisingly, the currently planned aggressive release deadline for the EC Delegated Act would, de facto, prevent C-ROADS from contributing to cellular networks profiles in time for consideration in upcoming C-ITS deployment.

A delay of the Delegated Act to beginning of 2019 is needed in order to allow C-Roads to reasonably complete cellular C-ITS profiles. A delayed introduction of cellular C-ITS profiles in the Delegated Act would, on the other hand, unfairly penalize cellular technology compared to short-range, in contrast with European principles of technology neutrality.

From the technical perspective, cellular networks can enable interoperability in the C-ITS ecosystem by exploiting “cloud-to-cloud” interfaces between OEMs, road operators and application providers of back-end systems, among others. This way of interacting has important benefits. For example, backwards/future compatibility is enabled by service providers’ multi-standard networks rather than by forcing the vehicles to implement multiple short-range standards.

This is particularly relevant today with 5G just around the corner while the ITS-G5 short-range radio technology is based on a 20-year-old WiFi radio interface! Cellular is also beneficial from a security perspective, thanks to the fact that only a few trusted actors need to be interconnected using Virtual Private Networks secured with proven state-of-the-art technology.

City Street aerial

The independent socioeconomic comparison of candidate European C-ITS policies by Analysis Mason shows that deploying RSUs to deliver V2I is an inefficient use of public money. Analysis Mason concludes that the use of existing mobile network infrastructure “…could reduce costs and would allow higher infrastructure penetration from service launch, compared to a scenario in which V2I services rely on extensive Road Side Units (RSU) roll-out”.

Ericsson’s evaluation shows that a fraction of the public investment for deploying RSUs would suffice to subsidize connectivity and deliver V2I services over existing mobile networks without additional subscription costs for the road users. In other words, public money is better spent subsidizing connectivity or infrastructure investments in cellular networks maintained by Mobile Network Operators, rather than on Road Side Units that will be technologically obsolete way before their full deployment.

In summary, Ericsson’s view is that C-ITS V2I services can deliver very significant socioeconomic benefits to the European citizens. Cellular networks are recognized as the most efficient, future looking, safest and economic way of delivering such services.

However, they are surprisingly penalized by European Commission’s C-ITS Delegated Act drafting procedures. We take the chance to respectfully but strongly request European Commission and DG MOVE to reconsider the C-ITS Delegated Act drafting process and ensure that cellular networks are part of its first release, in the interest of European citizens and in conformity with European technology neutrality principles.

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