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Autonomous Vehicles and the implication of 5G

  • 4 minute read
  • Published by Lucy Woods on 23 Nov 2018
  • Last modified 23 Nov 2018
The development of 5G connectivity is an important and well invested milestone for the transport sector. With an estimated 37.5 million registered vehicles on UK roads, and a record high 801 billion passenger kilometres captured in 2017 by the Government - it’s easy to understand the level of investment in this area.

Industry and government are collaborating to create exciting opportunities to research and develop connected and automotive technologies. So, we asked the following companies that work in this space about the implication of 5G technology and how connected and autonomous vehicles might affect wider society. 

George Filip, Manager for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles at the Knowledge Transfer Network commented

There have been few technological developments that have received the same media coverage in the last few years such as Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) and 5G connectivity. 

When talking about 5G, its potential influence on the automotive market of the future is staggering. Offering speeds of up to 100 times higher than (already) traditional 4G and low latency, it has the potential to offer the Autonomous Vehicles market a much-needed form of reliable, fast communications either between vehicles (V2V) or from vehicles to infrastructure (V2I). This can in turn transmit important, safety critical information to the vehicle, allowing it to take the necessary decisions. Furthermore, one of the most exciting avenues for the CAV sector is given by the endless possibilities regarding on board entertainment/infotainment. Allowing users to be disconnected from the driving task (in a fully autonomous vehicles) opens the avenue for new business models and ideas focused on the services that can be offered to those on board. 

Recognising the importance of such a technology on the future of AVs the UK Government through CCAV, have funded the AutoAir project, which brings together a series of organisations among which Airspan Networks, Millbrook Proving Ground, Quortus, Arm, McLaren and Surrey University’s 5G Innovation Center (5GIC). The project will create a 5G testbed at Millbrook to be used for the testing and development of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. 

Given the fast rate of development for both 5G connectivity and CAVs and the direction in which the industry is going, one can see a future in which the C in CAVs stands for 5G. 

Peter Claydon, Director of 5G Research at Airspan and Project Director for AutoAir has been coordinating the build of the phase 1 project network and shared the following insights: 
5G headlines talk about the big improvement in download speeds, and indeed as part of the AutoAir testbed we will be demonstrating 1 Gbps download to a car travelling at 160 MPH.  
From the perspective of Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), however, this is only a part of the story. 1 Gbps isn't so impressive if it's shared between a thousand vehicles. So, AutoAir is deploying a hyper-dense small cell network at Millbrook along a transport corridor where base stations (the 5G access points) are placed every few hundred metres along a road or railway.

This means that the 1 Gbps will only be shared between a few dozen vehicles, giving all of them fast download speeds.

But with CAVs it's not all about download speeds. It's also about latency (how long it takes a message to get from one vehicle to another) and reliability. 5G has features that help with both of these, but they only come into their own in a hyper-dense network. A message from one vehicle that has detected a hazard in the road can be relayed to vehicles around it directly through the local network, without having to travel to a centralised core and back again. This means they get to where they're needed at speed. The local network will also keep working if the long-distance connections aren't working.

Finally, because vehicles can be in contact with more than one base station at the same time, the hyper-dense network is immune to individual points of failure, which is very important (maybe literally vital) for a safety-critical system.  

And let’s not forget the masses of data points 5G will create; Richard Baker, CEO of the big data company GeoSpock commented "We are delighted to be part of the UK5G initiative and to be driving forward future priorities and focus areas that will drive the innovation needed for the long-term success of 5G networks. We are excited by the array of location-based contextual services and analytics which will be made viable with the adoption of 5G.” 

If you have any comments or would like to provide insights on a future 5G blog topic, please email hello@uk5g.co.uk  

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