Audi & Ericsson Testing 5G Technology in Vehicle Production

German automaker Audi and telecommunications specialist Ericsson are teaming up to test the use of 5G technology in automotive production at the car maker’s plant in Ingolstadt, Germany.

The two companies will test the industrial applications of 5G — a communications standard boasting faster data throughput rates and more network capacities, as well as ultra-low latency.

In the first phase of the project, Audi and Ericsson plan to test a latency-critical application using wirelessly connected production robots equipped with a gluing application.

“The fully networked factory will have a significant impact on the production of the future,” Audi’s CIO Frank Loydl notes in a statement. “A powerful network architecture that can respond in real time is of decisive importance for us.”

In the coming months, experts from both companies will run field tests in a technical center at the Audi Production Lab in Gaimersheim, Germany, which will be equipped with Ericsson’s Proof-of-Concept (PoC) network.

The Gaimersheim technical center will test the implementation of 5G technologies using simulated production environment, which mirrors the one found in the Ingolstadt plant.

Ericsson’s PoC network is designed to integrate alternative or complementary technologies to the ones currently in use, including WiFi, wireless LAN or Ethernet connectivity.

The two firms have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, with Audi and Ericsson already exploring whether 5G can be used in other Audi Group factories in addition to the Ingolstadt facility, according to a joint statement.

“Ericsson is already running 5G industry programs all over the world to help manufacturers boost productivity and create new business opportunities,” Erik Ekudden, Group CTO at Ericsson, wrote in a statement. “This project is a great opportunity to see what is possible when we bring 5G into an automobile production environment to truly enable smart wireless manufacturing.”

Audi has embarked on a spate of partnerships so far this year, teaming up with telecom specialist Huawei to more deeply integrate the Chinese company’s technology into new connected and self-driving vehicles.

Huawei and Audi also agreed to jointly develop training programs to strengthen the skill sets of technology experts working on smart cars.

The two companies had previously cooperated in other areas related to connected vehicles, including the initiation of the telecom-vehicle industry organization 5GAA in 2017.

In June, Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID), a subsidiary of Audi, announced a partnership with Cognata, an Israeli tech firm specializing in virtual tests for autonomous vehicle software.

Cognata’s platform leverages artificial intelligence, deep learning and computer vision within a realistic simulation environment to judge and validate AVs prior to physical roadway tests.

On top of that, Audi will take the wraps off its all-electric supercar — dubbed the PB 18 e-tron — at the Laguna Seca racetrack in California later this month as part of Pebble Beach Car Week.

So far the automaker has been tight with details, but did reveal the concept car employs some technologies found on the Audi R18 e-tron hybrid electric racecar developed in 2012.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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