Audi is pushing LTE standards for the connected car

Audi is pushing LTE standards for the connected car

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Cars are increasingly embedded into data processing and storage system based in the cloud. This requires higher bandwidths and lower latencies in the data exchange between car and cloud. The communications routing takes place in a unit called Modularer Infotainment Baukasten (Modular Infotainment Platform, or MIB), a device that is used across the entire Volkswagen group. Today, the second generation of the MIB is in use across most Audi Models. The company now announced the MIB2+ as the next evolutionary step of its communications hub. It will offer higher throughput and additional functionality.

The MIB2+ will support multiple high-resolution displays and therefore will boast significantly higher computing performance. What is more important however is that it blends online and offline information; the vehicle’s integration into the cloud will be deeper than before. Therefore, the platform supports LTE-A –with its bandwidth of up to 300 Mbps a requirement to enable faster exchange of online data and better voice quality. In fist place however is the prerequisite to implement Car-to-X services and, in the long term, implementing swarm intelligence and automated driving.

Already today the MIB concept provides for fast hardware update cycles, enabling carmakers in the Volkswagen group to benefit from new chip generations and keep pace (at least at to a certain extend) with the high innovation speed in the area of consumer electronics.

With the MIB2+, Audi claims to be the first carmaker worldwide to support LTE-A, with download bandwidths of up to 300 Mbps and 50 Mbps in the upload. This technology enables Voice over LTE (VoLTE), with the transfer of digitized voice as IP data packets. If required, the system automatically bundles multiple frequencies (carrier aggregation) for higher data rates. LTE-A is also the channel over which Audi vehicles feed data generated by on-board sensors into the HERE Live map, a project that will form one of the pillars for automated driving. When in comes to Car-to-X (or V2X) Audi sees stark differences between vehicle brands as to the underlying technology. According to Audi, the American market is committed to the standard 802.11p, a modified version of the widely used WiFi technology. Also Audi has successfully tested 802.11p. Other markets however appear to prefer 5G wireless for V2X services, Audi experts say. Audi associates this preference to the Asian countries, in particular to China. However, other market participants, in particular telcos, try to establish 5G as the technology of choice for V2X functionality also in Europe.

Another innovation in Audi’s communications toolbox is LTE-V, or LTE vehicular, a technology that offers high speed data communications directly between cars without the necessity to rely on a mobile network provider. Thus, vehicles can exchange data directly among each other even in areas without mobile coverage. The LTE-V module has two operation modes – “In Coverage” and “Out of coverage”. The first mode is activated as long as the vehicle is close enough to a base station. In this mode, the network manages actively the communication between the participating vehicles. Emergency vehicles, for example can obtain a higher communications priority. In addition, the LTE-V management scheme provides for “grouping” vehicles and thus establishing something like a “local intelligent swarm”. This mode allows for additional functions. For instance, the lead vehicle in a group can pass on the message of a traffic stall or an obstacle to the other members of the group automatically.

The Out of Coverage mode is basically a fallback level for cases when the vehicle is too far away from the base station. In this mode, the vehicles still can exchange data, but the base station is no longer involved.

In any case, LTE-V is the technology platform for multiple automated information services, with cars exchanging data about road conditions or traffic situation. For trucks, the technology will also be used for “platooning” – multiple trucks driving in very short distance of one another and thus benefitting from the slipstream of the vehicle in front.

For the further development of the LTE standard, Audi is collaborating with telecommunications equipment supplier Huawei. The next step will be driving the standardization globally, the company announced. Audi expects LTE-V to be ready for mass markets before the end of the decade. Since LTE-V will also be supported by smartphones, the carmaker sees new opportunities for car-to-pedestrian communications and, in this context, safety applications.

Related articles:

Audi vehicles get their own IoT identity

Why 802.11p beats LTE and 5G for V2x

Visual, haptic, smart: Innovative HMI tech at CES

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