car connectivity

Car Connectivity Helps Link Vehicles to (Almost) Everything

Today’s cars do a lot more than just move passengers from point A to point B. They are full-on infotainment systems. Now, riders can use mobile apps to navigate their journey, stream their favorite music, podcasts, videos, and much more. Some new electric vehicles are even able to keep their software up-to-date by pushing out changes over the air using a wireless network. All of this is made possible by car connectivity, which is helping modern vehicles sync up with just about everything.

Cars Talk on Telematics Systems

At their core, connected cars are like giant Internet of Things devices. Like smart appliances, TVs, or speakers, they send and receive data across the Internet. This continuous exchange helps onboard systems communicate, as well as for cars on the road to “talk” with each other. Embedded wireless hardware helps do the job using an information system known as “telematics”.

It’s a focus area for Jason Ellis, Director of Automotive Solutions at Qualcomm. “Within the last 5-10 years, we’ve seen telematics take off,” he says, referring to cellular modem connectivity in telematics systems. “At this point in time, many in the automotive industry are embedding cellular modems in their cars.” Car connectivity has grown over time. More powerful automotive systems-on-chips. Smaller systems. More robust platforms. As a result, road travelers have been able to enjoy more features during their trips. Vehicle Wi-Fi hotspots, fast-streaming video, and more are being enabled by wireless technology.

Connecting Vehicles to (Just About) Everything

car connectivity

As we mentioned before, car connectivity is helping link vehicles to just about everything. More than internal electronics systems, we mean other vehicles, transportation infrastructure, the cloud, and even pedestrians. It all centers on cellular vehicle-to-everything1, also known as C-V2X. This foundational technology was standardized in 2017, with input from global automotive and standards communities. Ever since, it has been gaining support from the broader ecosystem of automakers and telecommunications companies.

C-V2X covers many types of car connectivity, which we highlight below:

  • Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication: A short-range messaging system, V2V communication informs real-time safety systems that help vehicles avoid collisions.
  • Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication: Cars use V2I communication to connect with driving infrastructure such as road signs and traffic signals – potentially reducing congestion.
  • Vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) communication: Using V2P communication, vehicles can alert pedestrians of potential accidents using mobile apps on smartphones or smartwatches.
  • Vehicle-to-cloud (V2C) communication: To communicate with the cloud, automobiles use V2C communication to access in-vehicle services in infotainment and other areas.

One of the most promising areas of C-V2X is paving the road for fully autonomous driving. It does this by using both network-connected and network-independent communications. As Jason Ellis explains, “Now, you can have short-range communications and network-based communications operating in harmony.” He continues, “My company is putting both of those functionalities in the same chip, which are going into automotive designs – not only on the automaker side, but also on the infrastructure side”. The goal is to achieve greater communication range and reliability for self-driving cars in real-time decision making.

Towards 5G Car Connectivity

5G is coming and it could fundamentally change the IoT experience. The telecom industry is preparing for the change by updating its wireless infrastructure, trading size for density. In Jason Ellis’ view, “3G was all about big base stations. In 4G – because of frequency bands, capacity, data rates, and coverage – we started to introduce smaller cell towers and denser infrastructure.” With fewer cell towers, there’s a need to have more computing power at the edge – using gateways to collect and analyze vehicle data. Thus, edge computing will be pivotal to making 5G a reality.

While vehicles on the road today use 3G and 4G LTE technology, 5G concept cars have already been proposed2. These concepts might even roll into production in the next few years. “We could see cars debuting 5G as early as 2021,” Jason Ellis predicts. “Instead of the 4+ years that it took automakers to bring in 4G LTE, we believe automakers will target 2021 to bring in 5G.” If 5G cars do become a reality, the hardest part of your drive might be choosing what to watch first.

Learn More about Car Connectivity

  • Read our research report with Accenture about onboard computing
  • Explore our blog post on data storage challenges in automotive edge
  • See our press release about collaborating with Renesas’ R-Car automotive systems-on-chips


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  1. Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything | Qualcomm.
  2. Qualcomm Technologies 5G Concept Car | Qualcomm.