The road to 5G and driverless transport

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5G is an important building block towards the development of commercially available driverless transport, both public and private – but even if it will probably be a decade before we will see it reach its full potential, the journey starts now in 2018.

5G is promising speeds at least ten times faster than 4G LTE, which will make it a game changer when it comes to delivering on the promise of autonomous transport. Highway updates, for example, will be delivered in milliseconds. Connected vehicles will be able to gather information from other cars, road signs, traffic lights and pedestrians as they travel through cities and use it to ensure a safe and pleasant journey.

5G will provide a robust, secure and pervasive communications infrastructure for connected cars and autonomous vehicles. Its ability to provide lower latency, greater data speeds and connect multiple devices are all crucial to handling the large amounts of data connected vehicles will create - which Intel estimates will be upwards of 4,000 gigabytes per vehicle per day.  At the same time, it will enable autonomous vehicles to connect to networks in almost real time and talk to each other and their environment, which is paramount in areas such as accident prevention and optimized navigation.

Analyst firm IDC predicts that by 2020, 5G will generate 30 percent of the world’s data.  Autonomous driving together with safety and infrastructure communications will contribute significantly to this figure.

5G underpins autonomous vehicles

The automotive industry is an important vertical for 5G. Last year the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) was formed to accelerate its adoption. It brings together industry heavyweights from automotive, technology and telecommunications industries to develop standards and scalable end-to-end solutions for future mobility and transportation services around 5G. Members include Audi, Daimler, BMW, Orange, Ericson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm.

5GAA believes 5G will be the ultimate platform to enable co-operative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS) and provision vehicle to everything (V2X) communications. Cellular vehicle-to-everything communications (C-V2X) already exists, but it needs to evolve to meet safety standard requirements. 5G’s power lies in bringing down latency to single figures, offering continuous availability, speed and reliability that enables real-time data sharing across multiple connections.

Data speeds of up to 1 Gbps for 4K-resoluton video communications in 5G tests have already been achieved with a vehicle travelling at 30 km per hour.

5G rolls out

5G is key to the future of connected and autonomous vehicles, but it isn’t going to happen overnight. It will be country and city dependent. In the US, AT&T and Verizon have said they will roll out 5G networks this year. In Europe, EU ministers have agreed to recommend roadmaps for 5G deployed in major cities and along major transport routes on the continent by 2025.

With initial rollouts being limited to major cities in developing countries, public transportation will be the first to benefit from 5G, helping major cities to decrease congestion and negative environmental impacts by getting people to utilize autonomous buses, trams and trains for example. 

Telenor Norway, for example, plans to run a testbed for autonomous buses in the city of Kongsberg. The initial trials will involve an autonomous bus, which will have a dedicated 5G network from the railway station to the industrial park in the city.

Scania has set up a 5G proof-of-concept network in Södertälje, Sweden, which can control a bus remotely from a central operations center. Data from sensors is streamed to the operations center over LTE radio access with an evolved 5G core network. The testbed features automated service ordering and provisioning, allowing the set-up and take-down of prioritized network resources needed for the remote monitoring and operation.

Connected trucks

5G will also benefit the haulage sector with autonomous trucks designed to improve safety and lower fuel consumption.

Again the bandwidth and low latency offered by 5G means that vehicles can transmit directional information to each other, for example, quickly, efficiently and reliably or provide predictive maintenance. In the future, new networks could continually update maps and routes for autonomous vehicles for example.

Smarter cities, smarter transport

The launch of 5G will facilitate smart city deployments, supporting massive sensor network and the Internet of Things (IoT). If civic authorities move to limit cars in inner city spaces quickly, we will see autonomous car adoption and the use of 5G accelerate. 5G will enable cars to communicate with each other and with traffic control systems, for example. Users will benefit from higher quality road information and infotainment. In the future we will see VR providing immersive city visits.

5G will also satisfy the consumer’s demand for a door to door multi-modal travel experience. They may start out as a pedestrian for example, and then take a car followed by a train or plane. 5G will help provide consistency in terms of comfort, safety and continuous infotainment by providing stable connectivity.  

Driving into the future

Connected and autonomous vehicles will shape the way we travel and the way goods are transported in the not too distant future. 5G is a key enabler in the future of our mobility, making transport increasingly autonomous, smart, always connected and secure first within closed areas in urban sites and later across all highways.

Learn about our group 5G strategy here.
Philippe Souetre

Following a Master in Telecom Economics, Philippe has worked extensively in mobile marketing for license acquisition, carried out an operator re-launch in Europe and Africa and worked on 4G monetization, 5G strategy and marketing specifications. He has worked for France Telecom, MobilCom Germany and Algeria Telecom and is currently working on 5G strategy for Orange IMT (Innovation Marketing Technology) at Group level.