Smart technology and being connected all the time, wherever you are, is on the fast track to becoming mainstream, even when behind the wheel. However, getting to the point where cars can be considered 100% connected can’t happen with the current 4G network, meaning a major upgrade is in store. Not only will the car of the future need to be connected for convenience and entertainment purposes, the major focus will be the potential safety benefits associated with a truly smart car that’s able to “see” where it’s going and understand its environment.
Getting the car to this point, whether on the A1A in Miami or a crowded intersection in Bangalore, will require a new network that’s capable of supporting the mind-boggling amount of data being sent at lightning speed between a car, the other vehicles around it, the traffic signal controlling their flow, and the occupants inside.
For many of us in the connected car industry, 5G is seen as that network; the backbone of a transformative era where the automotive and communications industries intersect. This is especially pertinent when you consider self-driving cars and the associated data that will need to be communicated around their ecosystem fast enough to execute split-second decisions. Even before fully autonomous vehicles become mainstream, this network shows promise in perfecting advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) designed for Level 1, 2, and 3 vehicles.
Gartner forecasts that by 2020, 250 million connected cars will be on the road, and that’s in addition to the 20.4 billion other connected devices. The automotive industry is at a tipping point where the car will no longer been seen as a siloed machine, but a daily device in the same vein as a smartphone. In the next four years, the cumulative number of next-generation Internet-connected cars could reach 220 million. All of this innovation equates to a significant generational shift in network connectivity as 4G simply won’t be able to handle the increased data. The technical requirements for this 4G to 5G shift are sub-1-ms latency and downlink speeds greater than 1 Gbit/s.
5G’s technical advantage compared to 4G is immense. In recently concluded 5G field trials, telecom operators demonstrated data speeds in excess of 70 Gbits/s. Ninety operators across the globe have participated in 5G lab and field trials with multiple operators across the Americas, EMEA, and APAC having used between 6 and 80 GHz. Quality of service improvements in terms of reliability, connection density, extended range, and availability at relative driving speed up to 500 km/hr are essential connectivity criteria for enabling assisted and automated driving.
5G will likely cater to three broad services categories: Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC), and Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC). In the automobile, eMBB will lay the foundation for immersive in-car experiences, such as augmented reality, and be able to handle the surge in bandwidth requirements and need for sustained high-capacity data throughput with multiple sensors exchanging data. Outside of the car, URLLC will help with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) communications and automated driving. As the car becomes increasingly connected, so will cities and homes and mMTC will likely serve as the interstate for which these systems can communicate with each other.
Automotive 5G Use Cases
Not only is automotive technology evolving, but the way people use cars is changing too. We see a future where car ownership as we know it will be reserved for classic aficionados and most people will turn to car-sharing services to use a vehicle on-demand. This will either be through the use of shared mobility of Level 2 and 3 cars, or dispatched fully-autonomous vehicles. Because this paradigm shift won’t happen overnight, ensuring these types of vehicles interact safely with the legacy cars and trucks owned and piloted by human drivers will be absolutely critical to the success of future mobility.
This is why 5G is so important. To keep everything moving smoothly, V2X systems will need to be deployed so participating vehicles can communicate with each other, share sensor information, and be directed by infrastructure control systems. This will be enabled by eMBB and URLLC as demonstrated in the figure.
5G will also help increase the effectiveness of ADAS features, including ones we already have today, such as forward collision, do not pass, and control lost warnings and blind spot monitoring. As cars become even more autonomous, they’ll need systems to manage cooperative driving, traffic congestion, pedestrian warning, traffic light and speed advisories, and even fuel and charging station discovery. With the speed of 5G unleashed, the network connectivity and communication capabilities become untethered to enable a truly interactive vehicle ecosystem.
Situations where a car must manage situational awareness while traveling down I-90 with occupants answering emails in the back seat are, admittedly, still decades away. Given this, investments in 5G for automobiles must not be ignored because of the multiple safety benefits this high-speed network can bring to the cars of today and tomorrow. ADAS is going to be a major market for the automobile industry and 5G will help these features work more accurately than they already do.
More Sensors Need More Bandwidth
We’ve come a long way from the fully mechanical car and the number of sensors, and electronic control units (ECU) on vehicles is only going to increase. As cars become more autonomous, these sensors will need to serve as the eyes, ears, and tactile senses that normally would be reserved for the human brain. Optical sensors like visual and infra-red cameras and LiDAR will be augmented with inertial sensors and high-precision Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). All of these systems will generate massive amounts of data which need to be communicated in real-time to other vehicles, infrastructure, and networks.
For example, camera LiDAR systems will need bandwidth that exceeds 1 Gbis/s to enable consistent and reliable user experiences by 2020. For autonomous compute power, bandwidth of at least 5 Gbps will be needed.
While driving may be second nature to most seasoned motorists, the sheer amount of computing power required to drive without incident often goes unnoticed. It’s so much, in fact, that there’s a general power-consumption problem with current autonomous cars as they try to function on the same level as a human driver. A solution to this problem would be to alleviate the burden and spread the data across a high-speed wireless network; hence the importance of 5G as it has the foundation to enable autonomous cars.
In a very real sense, we’re moving toward a motherlode of essential information that will keep us safe while delivering services that entertain us and save us time, money, and aggravation. Only through the use of the advanced 5G networks can we efficiently and expeditiously transfer the scale of information to other vehicles and to/from the cloud so that our vehicles stay one step ahead.
Vishnu Sundaram is vice president of the Telematics Business Unit at HARMAN International and a board member of the 5G Automotive Association. Aravind Doss is the associate vice president of the Telematics Business Unit at HARMAN International. And Pratapaditya Singh is a principal engineer of the Telematics Business Unit at HARMAN International.eletter-05-23-2018 eletter-05-24-2018