Monday 15th July 2019

Americans speed ahead with Cellular-V2X, but we’re in the EU Woe-Fi lane

Published on April 8th, 2019

Some evil genius IoT (Internet of Things) developer at the UK’s Highways Agency has got it in for me. As soon as I change lanes in a traffic jam, it instantly slows down. Or maybe it’s the hidden hand of the European Union, argues freelance technology writer and professional sceptic, Nick Booth.

The European Commission has put some alarming signs on the metaphorical motorway gantries of Europe. EU Directive up ahead, says one. This warns that by 2022 all new cars in Europe must be fitted with joy-suppressant technology – speed killing gadget to stop your car going over 30 miles an hour (48 km/h).

Seems a really odd thing to do. Who’s going to pay BMW prices for Trabant performance? That will kill the car industry and hand a victory to the boring box makers, surely.

The joys of the in-car experience

Here’s a question for the comments box. Are any of your convinced by these marketing myths that ‘in-car experience’ is better than white-knuckle driving and watching the external scenery whizz by in a blur?

If the in-car experience is more important than speed, then another EU ruling is even more baffling. In March the European Commission (EC) drafted connected car legislation that limits the speed at which vehicles can talk to each other, too.

If safety is paramount then shouldn’t our hyper-intelligent robot drivers be sharing intelligence as soon as possible? 

Apparently not. The EC has ruled that connected cars must talk in the dead language of the outdated wi-fi standard (802.11p). Why? Surely 5G promises to create far richer possibilities than woe-fi. Already it is clear that there are more advanced technologies available, such as Cellular-V2X (C-V2X) connectivity.

3GPP heroes

The Americans are meeting both their short and long-term targets with CV-2X and as early as next year they could be pulling ahead of us. Why are we throwing away the legacy of three generations of multi-disciplinary partnerships? Those 3GPP heroes have sweated wheel nuts over many long hours for us. While we’ve been lounging about, they have been fine tuning the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-network models. Is this how we repay them?

Surely the point of improving safety standards is to extend the realms of possibility. If we can give cars panoramic X-Ray vision and super-human reaction times, surely that means we can allow them to go a little bit faster. Why treat a modern day BMW as if it’s got the same stopping distance as a Ford Zodiac from the 1960s? The point of scientific advancement is to go forward, not backward.

I am in awe of the clever people at the 3GPP and GSMA. They are giants standing on each other’s shoulders. The EU, by contrast, are munchkins standing on each other’s toes. 

While our American cousins will enjoy both physical and virtual ‘super highways’, we in Europe will drift at glacial speed, raging at the slow download of information while our car engines keep cutting out to save fuel.

Nick Booth

Still, what can you expect with Jean Claude Juncker at the wheel? If your driver is a man who sees the world through the bottom of a Cognac glass, he probably assumes we all risk life and limb if we exceed 10 miles an hour.

Connected car applications will presumably be developed first for the US market, with code writers basing their assumptions on devices using fast, efficient comms protocols . Which means the apps will run a lot slower on European devices that are plugged into the past using the clunky hack-prone Woe-Fi standard.

Dreaming of California driving

The American population will be emancipated by the car all over again. Developers can stop sleeping on their friend’s sofa and actually move out to affordable property. They’ll be able to drive into San Francisco every morning because the US 101 North (CA) will be an uplifting experience.

Meanwhile, in Europe we’ll stew in Juncker’s jams, rubber-necking at multi-car pile ups and making the traffic lanes move even slower. While our Yankee cousins are coding, we’ll be cursing: the lack of information, the dumb dashboard computer and the radio’s traffic reporters who seem no wiser than we are.

All because we jettisoned the future of C-V2X for the nostalgia of woe-fi.

Unless, of course, everyone gets behind the GSMA, which is campaigning to reverse this disastrous decision.

The author, freelance technology writer, Nick Booth will resume his non-political rants next time.

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