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Cooperative vehicular systems have been identified as a promising solution to overcome the current and future needs for increasing traffic safety and efficiency, while providing infotainment and added-value services on the move. To achieve their objectives, cooperative vehicular systems will be based on wireless communications between vehicles and with other infrastructure nodes, and will have to deal with highly dynamic nodes, challenging propagation conditions, and stringent application requirements. By looking at cooperative applications and their data traffic, as well as the current and foreseen spectrum allocations for cooperative vehicular systems, there is a risk that the corresponding radio channels could easily be saturated if no control algorithms are used. The saturation of the radio channels would result in unstable vehicular communications, and thus in an inefficient operation of cooperative systems. As a prime example of upcoming ubiquitous networks contributing to the vision of “a thousand radios per person,” cooperative vehicular systems need to be designed to scale to high densities of radios without centralized coordination, while at the same time guaranteeing the requirements of the implemented applications and services, for example the stringent needs of active traffic safety applications. In this paper, we survey and classify various decentralized methods to control the load on the radio channels and to ensure each vehicle's capacity to detect and communicate with the relevant neighboring vehicles, with a particular focus on approaches based on transmit power and rate control. Finally, we discuss the open research challenges that are imposed by different application requirements and potential existing contradictions.