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The future of transportation: Why 5G is in the driver’s seat

Experts discuss how 5G is steering the conversation on the future of transportation.

cars in traffic

With a new year quickly approaching, industry experts gathered to discuss the road ahead for the transportation sector, an industry on the brink of radical transformation. Connectivity has been a core component of vehicle design for some time, but the growing prevalence and increased capability of 5G technology means the two are permanently intertwined, with the network serving as a key driver for the industry.

Why 5G differs from previous networks

According to Larry Murat, Vice President and Account CTO, Ericsson North America, by the end of this year 5G will have more than 660 million subscribers worldwide, a faster adoption rate than even LTE. Along these same lines, he notes that more than three-quarters of vehicles sold by 2030 will be connected models. This rapid growth is the result of the network’s capabilities including lower latency and higher data volume processing in comparison to its predecessors. “With 5G you have one network supporting multiple industries. It’s a more efficient structure,” says Murat. “It will support 100 times more devices.”

How close are we to fully autonomous vehicles?

Prior to 5G, one of the biggest developments in the transportation sector was the introduction of destination-based navigation, where drivers could receive step-by-step instructions to reach their destination either by smartphone or in-vehicle device. As Kevin Doherty, Business Development Manager of Automotive, Hexagon Autonomy & Positioning, explains this functionality is a basic algorithm and early versions could not account for dynamic factors like traffic or weather.

He foresees a five-level system of automation, with the highest level representing self-driving vehicles. Currently, the industry is hovering below a level three—with a pathway towards complete automation. What’s needed to get there? According to Doherty, the missing elements are enhanced hardware, corrections data and advanced software. By “corrections,” he explains that data must be delivered in near real-time in both directions between vehicles and the cloud.

5G in action: Three real-world applications

Of course, the capabilities of 5G are only of value to the transportation industry if there are practical applications and clear benefits. Tess Van Thielen, Vice President of Advanced Services, Rogers for Business, demonstrates three use cases for the technology with the potential to increase efficiency and safety—a chief concern in the industry.

  1. HD Map Collecting and Sharing: Vehicles equipped with LIDAR or other HD sensors can collect information on their environment, which can create a more accurate map. As Van Thielen explains, “Today we send couriers to an address for pickup. Consider the benefits of sending an autonomous vehicle to a specific door or loading dock, or perhaps directing a drone to a specific landing site.” Such scenarios would be a reality with dynamic and accurate data.
  2. Hazard Information Collection: Cars themselves can be used to collect and send data on dangers such as accidents or poor weather, which can then be used to relay information on alternate routes and updates. “Many accidents occur when changing lanes,” explains Van Thielen. “We can briefly connect vehicles and provide a video feed of the oncoming lane for the driver to see before moving.”
  3. Driverless shuttle: Van Thielen also highlighted an ongoing pilot at the University of Waterloo where students can input their location and destination into an app and the vehicle routes itself around campus based on real-time requests. The pilot project could serve as a model for smaller cities as a way to optimize public transit in a cost-effective manner.

Rogers-AVIN partnership and challenge for SMEs

The event closed by announcing that Rogers is teaming up with AVIN, a Government of Ontario initiative aimed at supporting the province’s automotive sector. The groups will be building a test bed as part of the University of Waterloo’s 5G Smart Campus along with holding a challenge for SMEs to submit their own use cases for solutions. Launching in early 2022, the winning case will receive support to build and test their idea on campus.

For additional insight on the business applications of 5G, visit our read more features on how 5G can transform your business or explore a similar panel from last month’s Canadian Transit Summit.