Cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) communications will be one of the lynchpins for future autonomous driving, enabling cars to directly communicate with one another and local traffic infrastructure using wireless signals. Today, Audi, Qualcomm, and the Virginia Department of Transportation announced that they will bring the new communications technology to actual streets in Virginia later this year, an “initial deployment” that will be used to validate two key use cases ahead of wider vehicular and infrastructure rollouts.

Initially, the rollout will use Audi Q8 SUVs and the portion of the 5.9GHz spectrum proposed for C-V2X to demonstrate work zone warnings and “signal phase and timing” systems. C-V2X will send graduated warnings of live work zones to vehicles, ending with a low-latency, accurate warning regarding the physical presence of workers as vehicles approach each site. It will also provide green light countdowns to vehicles directly from traffic signals.

Critically, the C-V2X system doesn’t rely exclusively on a cellular network to provide alerts. Since it enables direct short-range communications between vehicles and infrastructure, it can dramatically reduce latency, providing a moving car with time-sensitive information that’s accurate in the range of milliseconds. Sharing accurate information quickly is expected to dramatically reduce both road hazards and fatalities over time.

Officials in the United States, Europe, and China are all moving forward with C-V2X initiatives based on 5.9GHz spectrum, as are chipmakers, including Qualcomm. Vehicle developers ranging from Audi to BMW, Ford, GM, Hyundai, Nissan, and multiple Chinese brands are in the process of building C-V2X solutions with 4G or 5G cellular support.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute will provide software and systems for the deployment, which will begin in the third quarter of 2020 and include demonstrations on select Virginia roads. Initially, the goals are to provide advance notice of dangerous road conditions, reduce traffic congestion, enhance safety around school buses, and begin improving the performance of automated vehicles. Over time, C-V2X is also expected to allow cars to send intent and warning signals directly to mobile devices, helping reduce pedestrian fatalities.