In partnership with Lexus Australia, we’re about to start testing new life-saving communication technologies in cars on Victorian roads. Powered by our 4GX network, the trials will test and demonstrate Australian-first Cellular V2X technology and advanced driver assist features to create a safer driving experience.

Technology has always been a catalyst for substantially improved driver safety. From the introduction of seat belts and ABS to more recent advances in radar and sensing technology, technology innovations over the last half century have reduced both the regularity and severity of road crashes.

I’m very pleased to announce that we, along with Lexus Australia, have been awarded grant funding under the Victorian Government’s Towards Zero program to trial a deployment of advanced communications technology in Victoria. The project is called Advanced Connected Vehicles Victoria, or ACV2. You can read more about the grant program on the Victorian Government website.

What are we trialling?

Telstra and Lexus Australia will trial connected vehicle safety systems including emergency braking alerts, in-vehicle speed limit compliance warnings, right-turn assist for vulnerable road users and warnings when surrounding vehicles are likely to violate a red light.

The trial will deploy two Lexus vehicles equipped with Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology.

For instance, if a trial vehicle ahead performs an emergency brake, it will send this message to a V2X-equipped car following — potentially before a forward collision radar or driver notices the event. In these situations, mere milliseconds can make a huge difference.

We’ll also be investigating other applications, such as how to securely send speed zone, traffic light timing, and other signals to cars so all this information can be available just-in-time and help prevent road trauma.

What is Cellular V2X technology?

Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) is technology that lets cars talk to each other, and the environment around them, via our 4G mobile network and via direct short-range wireless links. The ‘environment’ around the car could be other cars and trucks, traffic lights, roadworks or even pedestrians and cyclists.

Previous trials in Australia have used Wi-Fi-like 802.11p technology for short range communications. This trial will be the first in Australia to make use of the very latest short-range 5.9 GHz radios based on advanced 4G Cellular V2X technology — with a pathway and compatibility to future 5G solutions too.

What if there’s no 4G coverage?

While a huge proportion of Victorian roads already have reliable mobile coverage, it’s not everywhere. However, the strength of Cellular V2X technology is that it combines both short range radios (which allows vehicles to communicate directly with one another using cellular technology, but without going via a cellular network) and wide-area 4G-based mobile communications when available. So, even in the case that there’s no mobile coverage, the most urgent safety messages will still get through and help to save lives.

How are we involved?

As Australia moves towards a society of automated vehicles, we are investing in developing cooperative intelligent transport technologies that will make road users safer by helping cars communicate with the things around them.

The strength of our 4G network and future 5G network will allow faster adoption of technologies such as this – ultimately helping make our roads a safer place. We will be creating a high-performance specialised link on our mobile network, so the Lexus vehicles can communicate with each other safely and reliably, even when beyond the distance of short-range radio.

This is the kind of “network slice” that will be commonly used in 5G to support a huge variety of applications with different performance requirements. We will also be testing a specialised vehicle cloud, which coordinates messages between vehicles and connects them to services nearby, based on technology from our 5G network partner Ericsson.

Well before autonomous vehicles are commonplace, communications technology is set to create an even safer experience. We’re really excited to be pioneering this technology in Australia.