5G Cars Coming in 2020, Joining Wave of Connected Vehicles

Cars with embedded 5G cellular will start shipping in 2020, kicking off a technology rollout that will be crucial for operating autonomous vehicles, according to a recent market research report.

5G-equipped vehicles should become more common around 2022, around the time fully fledged, standalone 5G networks become more widely available, research firm Counterpoint noted in a report released on April 3. The evolution to 5G will continue already rapid growth that will occur in the connected-car market over the next four years, according to the report.

More than 125 million cars with built-in cellular radios will hit the road between 2018 and 2022, Counterpoint finds. That will represent 270% growth in the connected-car market. Counterpoint didn’t estimate how many owners would activate those cellular connections.

The European Union’s eCall mandate, which requires all new cars to be able to dial Europe’s universal 112 emergency number automatically after an accident, will drive the connected-car market in that region and have ripple effects around the world, analyst Hanish Bhatia wrote in a press release. By 2022, nearly all new cars in Europe will have cellular. Growth in China will also boost the market.

Built-in cellular can provide better navigation and entertainment options, in-car WiFi, remote diagnostics and over-the-air software updates, as well as connections to emergency services. In commercial vehicles, it’s used for fleet management systems that are designed to cut costs, improve safety and comply with regulations. Car-rental company Avis plans to make its whole global fleet of 500,000 cars connected by 2020, eyeing benefits like agentless car pickup.

5G, which will offer a range of benefits including higher speed and shorter transmission delays, is expected to play a key role in vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication. V2X will let cars communicate with the cloud, nearby vehicles and road infrastructure such as signs. The combination of local and wide-area connections should help autonomous vehicles drive safely, navigate and even be driven remotely when necessary.

Cellular radios in cars were predominantly 2G and 2.5G until just last year, when 3G became more common, Counterpoint said. But by 2022, almost 90% of new connected cars will have 4G.

Japan and South Korea are likely to lead the way in building 5G into cars, even though Japan lags behind other countries in connected cars today, the report found. Connected cars are most common in the US, the UK and Germany now, though China accounted for nearly one-third of all shipments last year, thanks to having the world’s largest car market.

Four automakers accounted for more than 90% of the connected cars that hit the road last year. General Motors led the pack with 46% of the world’s new connected cars, followed by BMW with 20%, then Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

GM’s arch-rival Ford announced last month it would include LTE in all its new cars by late next year, though it didn’t specify whether that will be for the world or just the US. Ford owners who want to get in on the game with WiFi and some other connected features will be able to retrofit their 2010 to 2017 vehicles with an accessory called SmartLink later this year.

— Stephen Lawson is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @sdlawsonmedia.

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