The pilot C-V2X program in Virginia will focus on two safety-related issues, with one use case featuring road-side workers with C-V2X equipped vests. (Audi)

Cellular V2X pilot launching in Virginia

Audi and Qualcomm are working with partners on a C-V2X deployment focusing on roadside-work safety and traffic-signal info.

Cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology is going live via a pilot program in Virginia, with the specific goals of improving work-zone and traffic-signal safety. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is working on the deployment with Audi of America, Qualcomm Technologies and the American Tower Corporation (ATC), in the hopes it will serve as a model between the public and private sectors to help speed the adoption of C-V2X.

Also working on the project is the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and V2X solutions provider Commsignia, with the implementation utilizing the 5.9-GHz spectrum the FCC recently proposed to allocate for C-V2X applications. ATC is providing the “neutral host” model for the roadside units (RSUs), VTTI is developing the systems and software to support the project’s two use cases, and Commsignia is providing the RSUs and intelligent transportation system (ITS) stack for both the roadside and onboard units.

The C-V2X system is operating via a temporary license from the FCC acquired by Qualcomm in two Virginia locations. The system is being prototyped at VTTI’s test track near Blacksburg in the southwestern portion of the state and a similar setup will go live by the end of the year on public roads outside Washington D.C. near Fairfax, VA. The system will feature 49 RSUs situated along an exceptionally busy and diverse set of roadways, including portions of the Beltway (I-495), Interstate 66, U.S. 29, U.S. 50 and associated service roads.

“What we're showing is basic safety communication,” explained Jim Misener, Qualcomm’s senior director of product management, “with some novel applications that we believe are compelling to the users in this particular case, the car user, the driver and also particularly to the road infrastructure owner and operator. We're at the tip of the iceberg here.”

Work zone and traffic-signal focus
Operating in the designated 5.9-GHz spectrum, C-V2X is designed to offer direct, low-latency communications between vehicles, roadside infrastructure and vulnerable road users (VRUs), without the involvement of cellular networks or subscriptions. The Virginia C-V2X deployment will focus on two specific cases: providing two-way work-zone safety messages and transmitting traffic signal status.

The construction zone aspect will feature roadside personnel wearing C-V2X-equipped vests and Audi Q8 SUVs outfitted with a Qualcomm C-V2X-based platform. The system will deliver warnings between the vehicles and construction personnel. Drivers using the road will get an alert notifying them of the upcoming road work, while roadside workers will receive messages and warnings that a vehicle is approaching.

The traffic-signal information use case will feature VDOT’s signal controllers broadcasting signal status information through the roadside infrastructure. That data can be used by the Audi Q8’s currently available Traffic Light Information (TLI) service, which provides countdowns to green lights and can warn of an impending red-light violation.

Pom Malhotra, director of Audi of America’s connected services, explained the Virginia C-V2X Smart Road Corridor will enable a new generation of vehicles capable of communicating not just through cellular towers but also, “directly with roadside infrastructure and vulnerable road users.” Malhotra also noted that the project will help Audi accelerate deployment of other warning use cases, and in the future, help the vehicle take autonomous action to prevent an impending collision or a traffic-rule violation.

According to Ed Knapp, CTO of American Tower (which manages more than 41,000 towers in the U.S.), the sharing of what will become ubiquitous RSUs will be crucial in the swift and widespread adoption of V2X systems. “We expect neutral host models and shared RSU enhanced infrastructure to play a key role in the deployment of C-V2X in the Virginia Connected Corridors,” Knapp said.

“Where I think it goes ultimately is the intelligent intersection combines a lot of future sensors, uses the same shared infrastructure and edge-compute processing for things like localization, positioning and speed of assets in the intersection,” he added. “That's why we believe in an open neutral host and an ITS fundamentally, because of the efficacy of tying into a lot of different participants in the ecosystem.”

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