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Vehicle-to-everything BAI Communications Canada - Ian Gallagher

Getting there from here: Ontario’s vehicle-to-everything (V2X) opportunity

by Ian Gallagher

05 July 2021

Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity has the potential to improve road safety, enhance highway infrastructure, simplify commuting, and even reduce insurance rates.

However, the benefits of vehicle-to-everything hinge on high-speed, high-capacity roadside data transmission that’s not available today. With Ontario’s planned $2.8 billion investment in rural broadband, this funding could be used to connect residents and vehicles in a modern telecommunications ecosystem.

V2X is a subset of the Internet of Things (IoT), which networks smart machines.  This helps convert data into actionable insights by cloud analytics. The ‘everything’, signified by the ‘X’, includes connectivity for vehicles (V2V), roadside infrastructure (V2I), pedestrians (V2P), the power grid (V2P), and more. Combined, the ultimate V2X vision of a ‘smart highway’ creates significant benefits for drivers, governments, auto manufacturers, and cellular carriers.

On a smart highway, networked vehicles can help drivers avoid hazards by alerting them in real-time to adverse weather, congestion, or changing road conditions. In close proximity, connected vehicles help prevent collisions by detecting sudden incidents, such as panic braking or airbag deployment. Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) are also able to collectively monitor external events through their cameras and exchange information among themselves.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates V2V connectivity alone could reduce accidents by 13%. This would ultimately result in lowered insurance costs – welcome news for the millions of commuters on busy highways.

Improving transportation management

V2X will also provide transport and government authorities with real-time, finely detailed data on traffic volumes, trip lengths, and road usage. Rather than using estimates and approximations from visual counts in fixed corridors. The data collected from connected vehicles would reveal actual volumes and usage across the entire road system. From on and off-ramps, smaller or rural roads, service stations, and more. This would enable more accurate assessments of road wear for maintenance scheduling and allow more efficient expansion plans to optimize traffic flows.

Auto manufacturers will also benefit from V2X applications by gathering a continuous stream of vehicle performance data. This data can then alert drivers when parts are about to fail rather than waiting until they do. Over time, this preventative maintenance approach could pinpoint opportunities to improve component quality and reliability.

With CAVs poised to produce data up to 30 times faster than the average household, V2X infrastructure could create data opportunities for cellular carriers larger than all Ontario households combined.

So if vehicle-to-everything is such a good idea, why hasn’t it happened yet?

Roadblocks and speedbumps

Making V2X a reality isn’t just a matter of popping SIM cards into a fleet of vehicles. It requires governments to engage in a complete overhaul of their entire roadside communications infrastructure.

V2X infrastructure also needs to provide power to various types of communications equipment and Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) devices at regular intervals. These are generally not available across long stretches of highway.

Cost is the last issue. Building a standalone high-capacity cellular network to enable V2X demands a significant investment.

These issues have created a chicken/egg situation. Auto manufacturers are reluctant to add real-time connectivity into their vehicles when there is insufficient capacity to support them. Governments are also unwilling to build new infrastructure when there are so few vehicles that currently have the capability to access it.

The business case for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) in Ontario

With Ontario’s current $2.8 billion allocations for rural broadband access, the province is well-positioned to take advantage of this opportunity. Beyond delivering immediate benefits – bringing broadband to rural residents – Ontario could enable V2X through the same broadband infrastructure it’s already planning to roll out. The upside is significant.

For example, consider the province’s Highway 401 as a case in point. Much of its 827 kilometres stretch through rural areas. It also runs through the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the most densely populated region of Canada. The GTA’s continued growth, both east and west, will mean more cars and more cellular subscribers – increasing the need for high-capacity roadside networks. Higher traffic density increases the potential for collisions, and V2X offers an effective way to improve highway safety.

A win-win scenario is possible where Ontario’s rural initiative is not limited to a closed, single-use broadband network. The province could instead use its planned spend to create an open data network capable of achieving both rural broadband and V2X objectives, at no additional cost.

Similar to the 5G neutral host model in telecommunications, shared infrastructure would enable multiple immediate and future uses cases. It will also encourage the development of an ecosystem of providers. It could also be self-funding, resolving the chicken/egg dilemma; bringing benefits to governments, citizens, and businesses simultaneously. A high-capacity broadband infrastructure that can be leveraged by households, vehicles, carriers and transportation authorities would provide rural Ontarians with the future-proofed technology they need at no extra cost.

This is the kind of ‘providing value for tax dollars’ story that governments look to tell in an election year.

A decision with decades-long repercussions

Ontario’s rural broadband investment plan presents a golden opportunity to address today’s challenges while laying the foundation for future economic growth. It’s today’s decision-makers who are in the position to leverage that opportunity – or lose it.

BAI Communications has the expertise and proven solutions to help build the communications infrastructure that can bring broadband to Ontario’s rural areas and enable V2X on its highways. Majority-owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), we’re motivated and capable of delivering a better-connected future for Ontario.

Let’s seize this opportunity.

Interested to learn more? Contact us here.

Ian Gallagher

Vice President, Smart Transit and Infrastructure

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