How 5G Networks are Paving the Way for Autonomous Vehicles

The automobile sector is developing at pace, with autonomous vehicles becoming a primary priority for many manufacturers in the industry. Car manufacturers in the autonomous vehicle space are partnering with telecommunications providers to access the advanced technologies necessary to get these innovative vehicles on the market.

5G technology is the leading technology to power driverless cars, and 5G networks are tipped to be an essential feature of autonomous vehicles. As the 5G rollout continues to gather momentum across the globe, the deployment of self-driving cars is becoming a reality. However, telecommunications providers providing the new generation of wireless communication networks will have to perform thorough development and testing of the 5G network across different spectrum bands before the widescale deployment of autonomous vehicles.

The Growth of 5G-Powered Autonomous Vehicles

It is predicted that the market size for 5G-powered self-driving vehicles will reach USD 500 billion by 2035. Autonomous vehicles rely on V2X (Vehicle-to-Everything) technology to process the activities that occur within their own system, as well as the obstacles that are in their surroundings and beyond, and use this information to take necessary actions. This technology requires high rates of data transmission, reliability, and low latency to facilitate a close to immediate response time for communications with self and road infrastructure.

Telecommunications providers and car manufacturers are working together to develop the necessary technical aspects and networks to power the new generation 5G autonomous vehicles.

Why 5G low latency data connections are Essential for Autonomous Vehicles

Currently, millions of vehicles connect to cellular networks to power real-time navigation, emergency services, and connected infotainment. New networks such as 5G will power additional applications such as autonomous driving and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) technology.

    • 5G connections make it possible for autonomous cars to identify obstacles: 5G-powered Vehicle-2-Infrastructure and Vehicle-2-Vehicle connectivity is necessary to enable autonomous vehicles to operate safely. These connections between the vehicle and other vehicles as well as the traffic infrastructure enable autonomous cars to be one step ahead. For example, an autonomous vehicle will use the data gathered to identify that there is slow-moving traffic ahead and slow down its speed accordingly in order to avoid a collision. This information is processed through inbuilt Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.
  • Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (uRLLC) powers communications between vehicles: Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (uRLLC) is critical for enabling communications between autonomous vehicles and 5G cellular networks. Autonomous decisions must be made practically instantaneously, within a fraction of a second. As such, the ultra-low latency feature of 5G is necessary for enabling autonomous cars to receive information at lightning speeds so that they can take quick actions to avoid collisions.
  • Edge computing enabling 5G-powered autonomous vehicles: Autonomous vehicles require fast processing of data to perform. Edge computing can be used as a means to prioritize data. The technology assists in identifying which data must be present at the edge to be processed by the vehicle’s onboard computer, and the data that should be sent to a data center for processing and further analysis. By enabling large amounts of data to be processed from the edges at a minimal response time, edge computing is critical for autonomous vehicles. 5G has lower latency transmission and an ability to power edge computing activities, which means it can reduce the risks of accidents occurring on the roads, for example, through instantly identifying and delivering key safety messages such as hazard alerts.
  • 5G networks ensuring the reliability of data: If an autonomous vehicle’s function fails, it could result in a serious accident. As such, autonomous vehicles require reliable communication to ensure time-critical information is delivered at the moment it is needed. Cellular networks are key to ensuring the reliability of the connection. 5G networks, in particular, are designed to be ultra-reliable in delivering communications with low latency. This means that 5G has the ability to power complex use cases, such as autonomous cars driving in dense urban areas and at high speeds. The adoption of autonomous vehicles will be restricted to areas with robust 5G signal coverage.

In the future, self-driving cars will be capable of making autonomous decisions and they will have to be able to cooperate and communicate. 5G technology will be key to powering these vehicles and their features through promoting a faster connection between transport systems and developing and delivering new applications for autonomous vehicles.

Authored Article by: Shirley Lim, Viavi Solutions