There are many amazing features within today’s vehicles. Some of them emphasise safety, like a lane-assist or blind spot alert system, while others offer convenience, such as a navigation system or Bluetooth and voice functionality.
Looking ahead to a world interconnected by 5G, the possibilities are exciting and impressive. But 5G’s main impact won’t be the engaging features that provide us with convenience in our day to day lives. More than anything, 5G will improve safety and reduce risk, while solving many of the common challenges that drivers deal with behind the wheel.
Automakers have always prioritised safety, but 5G will provide them with capabilities they may have never thought possible. It also presents a relatively new consideration: cyber safety. As vehicles become megaphones of data, they need to have the proper cybersecurity protocols, in a similar mindset to auto insurance for the physical car itself.
In the simplest terms, 5G is the next generation of wireless technology after 4G. Telecommunications providers have been preparing for this rollout for years but the initial availability of 5G networks began in 2019. In countries like the US, the 5G rollout has progressed more slowly due to the size of the country and the close distribution requirements of the 5G antennas. As could be expected, urban areas will have 5G sooner than rural.
The primary benefit over the older 4G networks is the increase in bandwidth for data transfers. This increase in download and upload speeds will benefit cell phone users but also any data device on the network, from computers to IoT devices and of course, vehicles. 5G is especially important for the progression of automation in vehicles and is a critical requirement for many of the advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) capabilities being introduced.
While the automotive industry has already achieved impressive technical feats in this area, there are numerous ways in which this next-generation connectivity will improve safety for drivers and communities.
One example where 5G can bring added value is in a connected ambulance. When an ambulance is headed toward an emergency room, there is a limited amount of information that those at the hospital can know. Think about all the questions an ER doctor would want to ask. Was there an injury? Who is the patient? 5G can bring life-saving detail and insight.
Imagine a robotic arm in the back of an ambulance, where the doctor could do an operation on the patient through telepresence capabilities while the ambulance is on its way to the hospital—triaging a critical element or situation. Through virtual reality (VR) connectivity, a virtual doctor may be able to save someone’s life. 5G’s ability to enhance real-time data in very complex systems can provide ambulances of the future with far more versatility and get patients into medical hands (even if they are robotic) much faster.
In 2019, the Government of Catalonia trialled this technology in Barcelona, creating a communication channel that could broadcast video in real-time, allowing doctors to provide care remotely while the patient is inside the ambulance.
Within a vehicle and city connected by 5G, cars will be able to see around corners before they even approach. Every major intersection—where crashes often happen due to blind spots, drivers running stop signs, or drivers running red lights—will now have 5G capabilities sending traffic data to other cars in the area as they approach.
With the ability to process the data instantaneously, 5G can prevent an accident from ever occurring. The vehicle’s capabilities to be constantly aware of where it is within the smart grid can also help with inner city parking—one of the largest causes of traffic congestion. 5G will allow drivers to identify available spots in real time throughout any connected smart city.
Trucking fleets are constantly on the move, transporting a wide variety of items and shipments from one location to the next. Some of those items contain hazardous materials, and if a crash were to occur and spill them on a highway, it could cause serious safety issues. 5G can bring a proactive issue-resolution for fleets through preventative maintenance.
Identifying the early signs of a problem within the vehicle before it occurs can help to reduce the number of maintenance-related accidents that take place. In addition, 5G will be a key differentiator for last-mile delivery, with the potential for connected autonomous vehicles to transport items to their final destinations in a way that reduces the risk that can come from face-to-face contact.
Similar to last mile delivery, creating a contactless experience with 5G is also possible through autonomous valet. With a car that can park itself, a driver can avoid the potential contact that valet often requires, while still experiencing the efficiency of not hunting for a place to park.
With more people purchasing vehicles in 2020 in order to gain greater control over their personal hygiene and health, it can be argued that 5G will give them that flexibility and assurance by providing the foundation for autonomous features that make a contactless experience possible. Autonomous valet is a logical first step in the progression to fully autonomous vehicles because it operates in a controlled environment, decreasing the potential liabilities while providing a contactless alternative for a common use case.
5G will offer the cars of the future a world of functionalities that they aren’t able to experience today. The technology is exciting for many reasons, including new efficiencies, but the largest impact will be made through its ability to improve safety.
Capgemini recently launched a 5G Lab-as-a-Service in Fundao, Portugal where automotive companies can prototype, design, and develop new 5G network virtualisations and deployments in a safe and secure testing environment.
Drivers should be excited and energised by these possibilities with 5G and their ability to connect across so many facets of our day to day lives. As more high impact use cases are discovered, the deployment of 5G technologies will accelerate in the years to come.
About the author: Daniel Davenport is Senior Director of Automotive at Capgemini North America