Movement of Goods
The demand for our transport systems is growing at an extraordinary rate. The most common form of transportation worldwide is road transport, with three-quarters of passengers globally travelling by private car. There are an estimated 1.3 billion cars on the roads today, which is set to double by 2050 — with private petrol and diesel cars having the worst carbon footprints per kilometre travelled after domestic flights, this is causing ever greater levels of congestion and air pollution, particularly in our urban areas. As for buses, though local journeys in England were down 50% to 2.12 billion in the year ending December 2020, this trend could be bucked if projected reductions in operational costs can be passed on to the customer and services grow in quality, frequency and coverage.
Train passengers have doubled in the last 20 years, and this number is set to multiply again before 2045. The current UK rail infrastructure, which consists of around 20,000 miles of track, was not designed for this. And it’s not just on the ground that pressure is increasing. While the aviation industry suffered amid Covid-19, passenger demand is already bouncing back and is predicted to grow 1.4% a year until 2050.
So, how are we going to cater for this transport growth? We cannot rely on simply building more roads, tracks or runways. Engineering, innovation and of course, technology will be key. More specifically, 5G — with its high bandwidth, low latency, capacity for network slicing, increased density of connected devices, ease of data sharing and guaranteed coverage — provides the means for real-time monitoring, smarter transport systems, more efficient, reliable resources and the ability to shift people to less carbon-intensive transport methods.
Once considered merely “nice to have,” connectivity is rapidly becoming a critical part of transportation systems.
For public transport services to work effectively and match passenger expectations, they need ubiquitous and reliable connectivity. Existing infrastructure across the country cannot handle the speed and volume required to support developments such as barrier-free travel, real-time monitoring, improved passenger processing, baggage handling and crowd management. Further complicating this is the impending retirement of 2G and 3G networks, compromising coverage in the UK. In 2019, 873 billion transport passenger kilometres were travelled in Britain; 5G’s high bandwidth and ultra-reliability is the answer to a seamless travel experience.
Multi-modal travel is heralded as the future of transport, and encouraging such journeys can play an important role in the pursuit of sustainable mobility. Lucy Harper, Stations Policy Manager at the Rail Delivery Group believes stations can act as transport interchanges where “station infrastructure and timetabling is integrated with other travel modes, particularly those with low or zero carbon emissions such as walking, cycling and bus, to minimise the customer’s carbon footprint through their end-to-end journey. This transition would support communities to overcome barriers to sustainable mobility, helping to reduce car dependency and car-orientated development, and would support the growing demand for mobility as a service (MaaS).”
But none of this integration will matter if people find the prospect of navigating multiple transport modes too complex or daunting. 5G-powered technologies can play an important role in providing support and reassurance during multi-modal travel; from personalised guidance with real-time information about availability on different transport modes, to micro-prompts and micro-positioning across user devices providing travellers with comprehensive door-to-door information. This will enable passengers to make well-informed transport decisions and experience a seamless transport system, encouraging more users and as a result, reducing congestion and overall carbon emissions.
According to analysts Gartner, the share of cars actively connected to a 5G service will grow from a current base of 15% to 74% by 2023 and 94%, five years later. Ericsson predicts that the number of connected cars in operation will rise to more than 500 million in 2025. From V2X to smart junctions and traffic lights, 5G can optimise travel flow, reduce congestion and travel times, all while improving the country's overall environmental impact. Intelligent transport systems require a coordinated framework, with features that support ultra-low latency for warning signals, higher data rates for sharing sensory data between vehicles and infrastructure, high mobility, high reliability, as well as scalability. 5G is the only connectivity solution currently available that will enable the full capabilities of V2X.
5G increases the bandwidth and lowers the latency available to transport providers. This supports the delivery of customer experience insight tools and third-party analytics systems to ensure public safety and personal security, including reliable connectivity, ultra high definition cameras, V2X notifications and touch-free travel.
5G’s increased capacity and low latency promise to deliver pinpoint accurate and real-time information to vehicles and travellers. Its reliability and efficiency will enable a range of capabilities to assist travellers: including V2X, driver assistance, guidance for the visually impaired, smart parking and even robot assistants.
Innovate UK predicts that urban transport systems, air transport and ferries will be fully autonomous by 2050. While AVs are already functional on UK roads without 5G, the advanced V2X functionality and ubiquitous coverage that 5G brings is anticipated to be a huge enabler of autonomous vehicles at scale. What’s more, to be truly effective and safe in urban landscapes, autonomous vehicles will need to be able to detect obstacles, traffic and the driving intentions of surrounding cars. 5G — combined with artificial intelligence and cyber security — can achieve this; it offers unique elements able to utilise edge computing with a guaranteed transmission. The low latency and slicing of the network that 5G offers also provides the ability for remote operation by a human driver, further boosting safety.
Vehicle platooning is an intelligent transportation system (ITS) application in which autonomous vehicles drive in close cooperative formations. It improves aerodynamic effectiveness and performance, increases the capacity of roads and provides a more steady-state traffic flow. Low latency is essential to ensure this can be conducted safely, making 5G the ideal connectivity solution. While traditionally tested with commercial vehicles, it also has the potential to be deployed to cars. This is expected to increase safety and road capacity, in addition to reducing fuel consumption.
After housing, a vehicle is the most costly item in a European family’s budget. 5G is here to change that: vehicle-centric OEMs and aftermarket services make it possible for the OEM to collect diagnostics data, providing motorists more informed choice over how they repair, maintain and service their vehicles.