This is part two of a three part series covering the next generation 5G mobile network. How will increased speed, capacity and reliability change everything? We have asked VP and Head of Technology at Telenor Research, Patrick Waldemar to enlighten us.
Part one: What is 5G and what does it mean for our society?
Part three: How will 5G affect supply chain & logistics?
We have all seen smart cars. In Norway, the “self driving” Tesla car models are an everyday sight, topping our sales statistics for new cars for the past three years. Many of the other car manufacturers are also claiming that their latest models are smarter than ever with computer assisted driving and technologically advanced security features.
What we are being told by Patrick Waldemar, VP and Head of Technology at Telenor Research, however, is that we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to smart cars and the future of the automotive industry. This is all thanks to the next generation mobile network, called 5G.
Smart, but not smart enough… yet
All of the smart cars on the market today have one big weakness in common, they rely solely on their own sensors and cameras for manoeuvring and navigation. The new 5G mobile networks, however, have been designed with the automotive industry in mind.
With 5G we get better coverage, higher capacity, lower latency and much higher data speeds. This will enable your car not only to stream Spotify all the way from the city to your cabin, but also to drive itself there, gathering information from other cars, pedestrians, traffic lights and even the road itself along the way.
To help visualise this future, Patrick tells us to imagine our car talking to everything and everyone it meets. It is being controlled by a computer in the cloud, or rather thousands of computers, calculating and adjusting our vehicle every millisecond of the way. Our car’s self-contained “intelligence” from its own on-board computer would only be present as an emergency backup if connection with the Internet is lost, or to play a supporting role in the handling of the vehicle. Even without Internet, the 5G capabilities of car-to-car, car-to-road, and car-to-pedestrian communication, would play an important role in getting us safely from A to B.
Extraordinary requirements from the 5G network
The 5G network is in large part designed by and for the automotive industry, thanks to organisations such as the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), backed by the industry giants Audi, BMW, Daimler, Mini and Rolls Royce in addition to telecom and technology companies. The most important factors for 5G to be meeting its full potential in cars are the following:
- High mobile connectivity capabilities, quickly connect to devices and maintaining a stable connection at high speed
- Low latency for critical road information and potentially dangerous high-speed situations
- High device-density capability, as many devices will be connected at the same time in, or passing through, a small area
- Security, hacking of vehicles and interception of sensitive data is a growing problem, and thus we must make the communication between devices as secure as possible
- Extreme reliability is critical, especially for autonomous steering and navigation
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the 5G network and connected cars will be land area coverage and the associated cost. There are vast areas with roads that have little or no signal from today’s mobile networks, and the 5G network will most likely be made with base stations with a much shorter range than today’s 4G (and older) equipment. Clearly in these situations the cars would need to be able to fall-back safely to their on-board computer or, in some cases, even manual driving.
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Innovation is critical in the fierce automotive industry
Patrick Waldemar at Telenor is adamant in asserting that even though the technology of tomorrow will bring amazing new capabilities in terms of connectivity, capacity and speed, it will not happen in a vacuum. We need those who push the limits of what is possible today for future technology to even happen, and waiting on the sidelines while others innovate will not be a free ticket to the show.
The automotive industry knows that innovation is critical in all aspects of business, including production, driving experience and safety, thus all the major brands are aiming to make smarter and more connected vehicles.
To achieve this goal, it would be much more expensive, and counter-productive, for all the automotive brands to develop their own next generation wireless communications system. By supporting the development of 5G, and in turn defining the specifications that smart cars need, they are speeding up the progress of 5G leaving the test labs and making its way into the real world.
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We will have a gradual shift towards smarter and more connected cars over the next few years, Patrick says, and he is supported by most 5G experts who are optimistic that we will begin to see trials of true 5G connected cars rolling out within the next three years.