Connected vehicles: The long and winding road

The automotive industry’s goal was for every new vehicle to be connected by 2022. Now, less than 18 months out, things are more or less on track. But on track for what?
M2M vehicle connectivity is already widely available.  This enables a vehicle to be connected to an app on a smartphone that provides basic operations. These might include showing where you’ve parked, pinging your phone if the alarm is triggered or, in some of the more advanced M2M uses, the ability to control certain functions remotely – climate control, perhaps, or even the ability to start the car remotely.
In the context of the connected vehicle vision, such M2M connectivity is the starter option and the current business model provides an initial ‘free’ period, typically three years, after which the manufacturer’s annual charges apply. Early indications suggest that few users continue with the subscription after the ‘free’ period expires. This perhaps indicates that the benefit v cost equation isn’t seen as viable by consumers.
Further levels of M2M connectivity can be provided by the vehicle manufacturer to gather long term vehicle performance data, advise when servicing is required and other vehicle related information.
Another level of M2M connectivity appeals more to fleet managers and connects vehicle data and telemetry to a central hub to track and monitor usage, location, speed and other parameters. This has potentially more widespread use in the corporate world.
Mobile broadband may also be provided as an additional connectivity option to provide entertainment services – possibly also including an in-vehicle Wi-Fi access point to allow passengers to connect their devices.
Further connectivity comes into play when V2X (or vehicle to anything) technology is installed. V2X means that vehicles are able to communicate with the broader digital infrastructure, other vehicles, people, bikes and smartphones. V2X use cases are varied –V2V (vehicle to vehicle) can be used to warn vehicles behind of sudden braking or of poor weather conditions or visibility. V2X is generally seen as safety critical, requiring very low latency and high availability.
The Volkswagen Mk VIII Golf recently launched includes V2X connectivity as standard – called Car2X by Volkswagen. Right now, however, Mk VIII owners will find that functionality is constrained by the limitations of the surrounding infrastructure it is trying to connect to. Volkswagen has opted to take a punt on the future – making technology choices in the hope that, when the V2X eco system catches up, the Golf will be ahead of the game.
And it will be… as long as VW have picked the right standard.
Much like the fierce but short-lived battle between VHS and BetaMax in the 1980s, there are two standards for car connectivity – ITS-G5 (also known as Wi-fi 802.11p) and Cellular V-X (C-V2X) with 4G and 5G V2X variants. And of course, they don’t talk to each...