5G could become the mouth-and-ears for driverless cars

Many experts are pondering the technologies that will allow a car to communicate with its environment. So, if the automotive industry wants to benefit from autonomous cars, the auxiliary infrastructure must be in place to ensure a smooth transition to the world of driverless driving.

Mass communication

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) says the V2I communication is already happening on some level today, with Amber Alerts and information about traffic congestion available to the users. In that state about 98% of the highways are equipped with fibre optics to make this communication possible.

Speaking about how driverless cars will communicate with infrastructure, Vivek Beriwal, senior analyst, car connectivity and user experience at IHS Automotive, said: “Connection to high-speed cellular networks is an absolute must for optimal ADAS support as well as enriching the capabilities of in-car infotainment, such as high-definition content streaming or connectivity that could be shared with other devices via mobile hotspot.”

He diverts the attention towards the growth of dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), a medium-range communication capability, that can be another shot in the arm for V2X applications. Beriwal said: “DSRC is able to accommodate all necessary V2V and V2I communications and is dependable even in extreme weather conditions. Although developed initially to improve safety, DSRC can be used for convenience features such as e-parking or toll payment. While DSRC architecture for specific automotive use cases is well-established, there’s been little work to create a similar automotive grade architecture for cellular and that is where government legislation can come to the rescue.”

AI and 5G making driverless cars smarter

While driverless remains a hot topic, road to autonomous driving remains complicated. It not only requires an ecosystem – vehicle, humans and infrastructure – to work together, it also requires many different industries – engineers, automakers, regulators, political leaders, tech companies, data scientists and more – to work together to map out a radically different future for automobiles.

Cami Zimmer, senior advisory consultant, Vision Systems Intelligence, said: “Just like human drivers, AV cars need to have sensors to understand the world around them and a brain that collects, processes and chooses specific actions based on the information gathered. In order to stay on the road, avoid collisions and obey traffic laws, AV rely on a series of sensors, including radar, LiDAR and cameras that help the cars understand the environment in which they are traveling in real time. Each of these technologies is used in different capacities and collects different information.”

She adds that AI could be the key to accelerate mass adoption of autonomous technology. Zimmer said: “AI has many applications for these vehicles:

•         Directing the car to a gas station or recharge station when it is low on fuel;

•         Adjusting directions based on known traffic conditions;

•         Eye tracking;

•         Algorithms that outline to the car’s onboard computers – what is right, wrong, safe, unsafe – for the car to perform.

“All of this date is collected and sent to the data centre and, using deep learning and machine learning tools, creates the instruction set that is then communicated to other vehicles, teaching them what is what in the world around them, what should be done, how cars should react. Cars can start to recognise and differentiate moving objects – humans, animals, balls rolling in the street, also extreme weather conditions.”

Beriwal focuses on the imminent arrival of 5G wireless as a communication medium, saying: “5G will empower next-generation cellular networks to accommodate all future connectivity needs for increasingly automated vehicles. There is a significant momentum in the mobile industry towards enabling low latency connectivity for V2V and V2X applications, with leading carriers such as Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Orange, testing automotive 5G applications. With some of the top suppliers, such as Delphi, Denso and Continental, already announcing their V2X integration plans, the technology is all set for expansion.”

On taking about the merits of 5G spectrums, Zimmer says: “Unlocking the true potential of automated driving requires a reliable, robust and pervasive wireless network. These requirements are the basis of 5G networks. I believe that 5G will be as important to autonomous cars as 4G has been to mobile phones. The technology will help cars change lanes, recognise signals and be helpful in mapping accuracy. 5G will also help vehicles communicate with scoping road and weather conditions. And for collision avoidance, 5G will connect cars to cloud services for object recognition. It will also provide a constant link to live TV for backseat passengers to enjoy.”

Zimmer explains in conclusion: “We are confident that technology can and is improving. Great companies like 3M are working on sign communication, reflective paint and other techniques that will help and we’ll see more smart roadways that communicate with automated vehicles and warn them of hazards ahead like traffic, accidents and things like potholes.”


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