The Future of Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Technology: A Breakthrough for Safety and Connectivity

Santa Clara County, Calif., Bus Initiatives

Santa Clara County, Calif., is giving buses more green lights.

Louisville, Ky., is collecting real-time data on viaduct flooding to prevent car drowning deaths.

College Station, Texas, is outfitting five intersections with warnings for pedestrians when buses and emergency vehicles approach.

Advancements in Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Technology

A long stalemate over the details of deploying vehicle-to-infrastructure, or V2I, technology has ended, and the investments keep coming.

Federal government requests for proposals

The federal government has requested proposals for more solutions this year, with vehicle connectivity groups calling 2023 “pivotal.”

Clarity for automakers

Federal Communications Commission waivers granted in April have given automakers clarity on the way forward after decades of ambiguity.

“We’re in the red zone, and I can finally see where we can get this ball over the goal line,” said John Kwant, executive director of the Americas at 5G Automotive Association and Ford’s former global director of mobility and advanced technologies.

“This technology has the potential to have the same kind of step-level improvement in vehicle safety and reducing traffic fatalities that we’ve seen going all the way back to seat belts and airbags and advanced braking.”

Vehicle-to-infrastructure benefits

Vehicle-to-infrastructure technology allows vehicles and smart public infrastructure, such as traffic lights, to interact.

Departments of transportation and technology companies are testing and deploying products that can collect and act on data about road conditions, traffic, the presence of emergency vehicles, weather and other information.

Automakers are adapting vehicles to be able to receive the data and share their own.

The U.S. Department of Transportation predicts that 12 percent of potential crash scenarios could be avoided using the technology.

Types of Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Technology

There are many types of vehicle-to-infrastructure technology, but they all rely on the same principle.

Devices, such as roadside units or sensors, capture vehicle information and receive advisories and other messages from local agencies.

The technologies then wirelessly provide that data to vehicles or to pieces of smart infrastructure that respond to adjust traffic flow or driver behavior.

NoTraffic: Retrofitting intersections

Israeli startup NoTraffic uses two tools to retrofit existing intersections and create smart traffic lights.

One is a sensor that classifies road users such as pedestrians or vehicles and monitors their speed and location.

The other is a control unit that municipalities install in existing traffic-light cabinets.

Using sensor data, control units manage the traffic lights at the individual level and across the system.

NoTraffic said it can retrofit an intersection in less than two hours.

Cities using NoTraffic

North American cities such as Palo Alto, Calif., and Tucson, Ariz., have deployed NoTraffic, and the company said it’s on track to work with more than 100 departments of transportation and traffic agencies by the end of the year.

National Deployment of Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Technology

For the first time, there is serious momentum for a national deployment of vehicle-to-infrastructure technology.

In 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a nearly $1.9 million grant to Utah’s DOT, which is partnering with Ford, General Motors and Nissan to develop V2I test procedures and tools for national deployment.

59 smart transportation projects in 33 states are receiving a total of $94 million in funding from the DOT in fiscal 2022.

The waivers are “massively significant,” said Lee Colman, global head of consulting at SBD Automotive.

“You’ve got several threads there that are coming together that are kind of breaking the slow evolution of this corner of automotive.”

Breaking the stalemate

The quicker pace of development can be traced back to FCC rulemaking in 2020.

The Evolution of Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Technology

In 1999, the FCC designated spectrum for intelligent transportation services.

NHTSA proposed rulemaking in 2016 for short-range communications.

However, C-V2X technology emerged as an alternative using cellular data instead of Wi-Fi.

When President Donald Trump took office, the proposed rulemaking did not move forward as a mandate.

In 2019, automakers announced plans to deploy C-V2X technology in all new models.

FCC decision

The FCC decision to transition the upper 30 MHz to cellular vehicle-to-everything technology offered clarity but required sacrifices from the automotive industry.

“The adage I use is that we have all gotten through our collective stages of grief, and we are emerging and getting to acceptance,” Kwant said.

Implications for connectivity

Vehicle-to-infrastructure technology can have an immediate impact as smart infrastructure can respond to unconnected vehicles.

Automakers are now looking for V2I as a spark for customer value.

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