C-ITS in the EU: ‘It has got a little tribal recently’

As the C-ITS Delegated Act begins its journey through the European policy maze, Adam Hill looks at who is expecting what from this proposed framework for connected vehicles – and why some people are insisting that the lawmakers are already getting things wrong
Networking & Communication Systems / April 16, 2019
European Parliament: furrowed brows and fervent hopes

As the C-ITS Delegated Act begins its journey through the European policy maze, Adam Hill looks at who is expecting what from this proposed framework for connected vehicles – and why some people are insisting that the lawmakers are already getting things wrong

There are furrowed brows in Brussels and Strasbourg as 1816 European Union legislators begin to consider the rules which will underpin future services such as connected vehicles.

The idea is to create a regulatory framework to harmonise cooperative ITS deployment through secondary legislation based on ITS Directive 2010/40/EU. The C-ITS Delegated Act - a leaked draft of which had circulated widely within the ITS industry – was put before the European Parliament and European Council on 13 March.

The idea behind this is eminently sensible: to ensure that C-ITS services – which are already being deployed anyway – work coherently with one another now, and in the future. In a joint letter to 1690 European Commission (EC) president Jean-Claude Juncker, the bosses of 994 Volkswagen, 267 MAN Truck & Bus, 570 Scania, 4984 Kapsch TrafficCom, 2453 Renault, 566 NXP Semiconductors and 6765 Autotalks wrote: “Such a Delegated Act would safeguard cooperation for road safety as it would ensure everybody speaks the same language (interoperability), everybody remains connected to everybody (backward compatibility and future-proof) and everybody benefits from the same road safety and traffic efficiency services (continuity of services)”.

The Car 2 Car Communication Consortium points to research which shows that C-ITS-based warning systems can reduce intersection collisions by more than 50%. It welcomes the advent of a regulatory framework “because it is providing interoperable and predictable boundary conditions. Those conditions will secure investment in road safety and enable long-term planning for all the relevant stakeholders, like vehicle and infrastructure manufacturers, including their supply base, and the road authorities”.

So far, so good. There is broad agreement for what the EC is trying to do because it does not make sense to have a patchwork of diverging, non-interoperable solutions across Europe, and because no-one wants to make multi-million euro investments now which will be wasted in a decade’s time. But there are many competing communications protocols and a variety of differing thoughts about the proposals. “It has got a little tribal recently,” one industry insider told 1846 ITS International.

Tech neutrality

Every vehicle is meant to be able to speak to another vehicle plus relevant infrastructure. That means the legislation must take into account what is being deployed now – so even if today’s cars last 15 years, today’s roadside equipment will still be able to communicate with their replacements in 15 years’ time.

As far as one can see, the C-ITS Delegated Act will not exclude any future technology because being tech-neutral is vital for the legislation to make sense. The European Commission’s own 5G Action Plan has already made this clear: “Where appropriate, 5G will operate in seamless co-existence with technologies already being deployed.”

The 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) does not see it that way, however, voicing concern about the status of cellular Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X or LTE-V2X). “Regrettably, the draft Delegated Regulation contradicts the Commission’s commitment to an open and future-proof approach to standards and legislation, by exclusively embracing ITS-G5-based (IEEE 802.11p – derived from Wi-Fi) communications, excluding other available and mature technologies such as LTE-V2X (both for direct short-range or long-range communications),” it said in a submission.

5GAA insists that the Act “should not be picking technology winners, but should allow the creation of a landscape with equal opportunities for all automakers, suppliers and other stakeholders aiming to support the deployment of C-ITS”.

Above all, it emphasises that LTE-V2X is the only platform which offers a “clear evolutionary roadmap” towards 5G for connected vehicles and road infrastructure.

At present, the organisation is concerned that the text of the regulation “still only foresees the initial deployment of these services exclusively via ITS-G5 for short-range communication”.

The argument against that point of view is that ITS-G5 is already in use, and all the Act is doing, in effect, is taking ITS-G5 as a baseline. Kapsch says: “ITS-G5 is the only commercially available technology, it hence forms the baseline for interoperability. The review clause allows future technologies in.”

Potential concerns

But 5GAA is concerned that “the draft text still imposes discriminatory obligations which would require technologies other than ITS-G5, such as LTE-V2X, to bear the full responsibility of ensuring interoperability”.

It wants that responsibility to be shared and says the regulation should include LTE-V2X short-range and long-range communications “on an equal footing with ITS-G5”.

But, of necessity, it seems logical that the Act will have to reference standards of available and proven technologies. Car makers such as VW, and ITS providers like Kapsch, are obviously looking into the possibilities of 5G. As things stand, C-V2X, for instance, would be included for C-ITS – but only when it is tested and standardised.

Among the other potential concerns for operators when it comes to the scope of the legislation are potential interference with radio signals and loss of tolling revenue.

The 4240 European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) emphasises the need for tech-neutrality, saying that both technologies (LTE-V2X and ITS-G5) should be able to operate on both frequency bands (3.4-3.8 GHz and 5.9 GHz). “ITS-G5 and LTE-V2V interfere with each other if operated on the same frequency channel because there are differences between the wireless systems,” it says in a position paper. “To foster ITS applications using the 5.9 GHz frequency band regardless of technology, coexistence methods between available technologies should be developed (i.e. several technologies can be co-located on the same frequency channel).”

This would be in line with the EC’s technology-neutral principle and would be the “most spectral efficient”. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has made “significant efforts in finding a coexistence method”, it continues, adding that installation of 5.9 GHz equipment including antennas in vehicles is crucial regardless of wireless technology.

LTE-V2X and/or ITS-G5 in the 3.4-3.8 GHz and/or 5.9 GHz bands can introduce redundancy for serving connected and automated vehicles (C/AVs), while V2X applications in need of redundancy can run applications on one or two technologies on well-separated frequency channels, ACEA says. Furthermore, it suggests that using two different frequency bands will provide extra robustness to the overall V2X system, pointing out that line-of-sight sensors such as radar and camera provide such back-up for different applications.

Future updates

Meanwhile, ASECAP is fully behind the Act’s principles of creating certainty for C-ITS operation at the same time as preventing fragmentation. But it is concerned about the possibility of its members losing money, emphasising that radio interference is a threat to electronic tolling and can cause loss of toll income – with a knock-on effect on the financing of European roads. “ASECAP members are deploying short-range C-ITS using IEEE 802.11p aka ITS-G5 in order to improve road safety and traffic efficiency,” it told the EC.

The organisation insists that future updates to the Delegated Act must ensure that C-ITS and electronic road charging systems “can co-exist without harmful radio interference”. Outlining the responsibilities of motorway operators – primarily to ensure road safety for users – it urges EU institutions “to only consider reliable technologies, once they have been publicly tested, in order to guarantee compliance with existing legislation (road charging, drive and rest time, weights and dimensions)”.

486 ASECAP concludes: “Road charging is essential for the financing of motorway development and maintenance and keeping Europe’s road network safe. Only proven technology can assure that we can keep our roads safe.”

The C-ITS Delegated Act might be best thought of as the start of a major debate over where the ITS industry – and C/AVs in particular – are headed in Europe. Yes, there is disagreement around specifics, but there is also significant common ground. “We welcome any mature short-range technology into the C-ITS communication ecosystem,” the industry source told ITS International. “It’s not about freezing things out, it’s enabling existing technology to be deployed in a secure, interoperable and backward-compatible manner, which simply is necessary if we talk road safety and long product cycles.”

The original version of this feature has been edited to clarify ACEA’s position.

Related Images