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Ford's cars will start talking to each other in 2022

The path to vehicle-to-everything, or V2X, communications has been dragging on for decades. Ford, it seems, is sick of waiting for the industry to make up its mind and will deploy a Qualcomm-backed solution in 2022.

One of the most important visions for an idyllic, utopian vision for a future for transportation has been vehicle-to-everything communications. This V2X technology would allow for cars to talk to each other and to everything around them, helping to avoid collisions and congestion automatically. The problem is, in order for this to work all cars really need to be speaking the same language, and the development of those industry-wide standards has been dragging on for decades.

At this year's CES in Las Vegas, Ford has announced it's moving its own way. After demonstrating with Qualcomm in early 2018, Ford will begin deploying V2X communications in all its new cars starting in 2022.

Ford is calling this C-V2X, and that "C" is a very important differentiator. It stands for "cellular", pointing to this tech being built on the back of existing mobile networks that power our cellphones. This actually had been a huge sticking point for the industry-wide adoption of V2X, because much of the original work was developing a proprietary wireless standard called dedicated short-range communications, or DSRC.

Under development for decades, DSRC creates a short-range, point-to-point network that enables cars to talk to nearby objects. However, now that 4G is widespread, and with 5G coming soon, many in the industry believed it was time to ditch DSRC and go with cellular. That's exactly what Ford is doing here.

In announcing the service, Executive Director of Ford's Connected Vehicle Platform Don Butler said that this C-V2X system is meant to "complement" the onboard sensors that enable the company's autonomous cars to function. "While these vehicles will be fully capable of operating without C-V2X," Butler said, "the technology could help them create more comprehensive maps of the world that lies beyond the view of lidar, radar and cameras."

The big question, though, is whether the rest will follow. The full potential of V2X will only be realized when the entire industry is onboard, but with Audi also indicating it will support the C-V2X implementation provided by Qualcomm, we might be seeing the beginning of some proper -- and long-needed -- momentum.

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