Industry Insights

We are on the road to 5G

2018-12-06  |  7 min read 

Imagine a situation where vehicles are able to communicate with each other to identify issues before the driver is even aware there is a potential problem. This is the concept known as V2X (or Vehicle to everything).

With the advent of 5G and the promise of everything connected, the world of the automobile is a very special case.  However, this technology rollout may not wait for 5G but instead will have their own infrastructure based on either Wireless LAN  (DSRC/ITS-G5) or cellular LTE (C-V2x).
These two technologies appear to be competing against each other in the market but the main differences are at the PHY layer.  There has been much work done by the DSRC community that has been usefully leveraged for use in the cellular world. Additionally, C-V2X has a clearly defined roadmap toward 5G via the evolution of 3GPP standards. The automotive industry group 5GAA, the 5G Automotive Association, was created ‘to connect the telecom industry and vehicle manufacturers to develop end to end solutions for future mobility and transportation solutions’ (as stated by their Chairman) .

What are the problems these technologies are designed to solve?

  • Enhanced Safety : - through the Non-Line-Of-Sight (NLOS) capability of the wireless technologies which are designed to augment existing sensors in vehicles today  e.g. enhanced emergency brake warning or cooperative collision avoidance with obstacles or other vehicles in the vicinity.
  • Efficient Driving :  providing the ability to keep the traffic moving in convoy or avoiding congestion  e.g. cooperative cruise control, HD Maps, updated traffic information.

The driver here (no pun intended) is to reduce the number of user-initiated accidents on our roads which lead to such horrendous figures as 3,000 road traffic related deaths globally every day or 1.3m annually With 95% of all traffic accidents caused by human error, the most effective measure to take to reduce these statistics is to remove the human element altogether. 

Therefore, from the basic safety features that exist today using sensors such as radar, lidar, vision systems, etc ; through the enhanced safety measures such as V2X as described above – the ultimate goal is to get to fully autonomous vehicles capable of driving in real world conditions. To realize this vision, proponents of cellular technology support road systems with ubiquitous wireless coverage, which is where the 3GPP standards based communications have their strengths.

Even if we consider only the major highways (eg autobahn, autostrada, autoroutes) the geographic spread is such that only a Wide Area Network will suffice, and when we consider driving over boundaries then additional handovers to new carriers needs to be handled as well).
As 5G rolls out from 2019 onwards there will be an effort towards using this technology on our roads, but clearly the demand is now, and with 3GPP release 14 we have an implementation today that provides a path to 5G and beyond.

Imagine a highway system that requires minimal intervention from the driver over huge distances; warns of impending danger – or even just slower traffic. It can carry more vehicles on the same backbone with no associated rise of incidents or accidents.
For the professional driver this may not sound like good news. It’s like the aphorism that if everyone drove at 80% of their normal commute speed then everyone gets there quicker. That’s all very well until you are desperate to get ahead of the vehicle in front.
This will lead to a new paradigm in driving where it becomes more like the sci-fi novels of old with the sole emphasis being the delivery of everyone to their destination, safely.

But none of this just happens, it all has to be verified and tested to ensure correct operation and crucially interoperability – and not just in a benign environment on a track somewhere but in the real world.
Real world RF conditions can be created in a test lab and verify the operation of the various wireless devices and their inter-communications and Keysight provides the greatest range of connected test solutions to so just that.
However, consumer confidence will only come from extensive and comprehensive trials in the real world.
We already see the media’s attitude towards collisions where something has gone wrong with assisted driving today – and these will continue to be headlines until we are beyond the inflection point where only the minority have this technology.
The more testing that takes place the greater the confidence in the connectedness of everything.

When the automated world was predicted there was a fear that humanity would not know what to do with all the time they had on their hands. The question still remains – what will you do with the time you have available to you in your daily commute in the future?
Will your automobile become the office of the future where the connectedness will allow you to work while at the same time being delivered safely to your destination?  

Only time will tell.