For the most part, the various sectors of the next generations of just about everything develop at their own pace until such time that the technologies can meld and the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.
There are so many vectors out there that, over the next decade, will become inextricably interwoven at any number of levels. These are all complementary to one degree or another. Artificial Intelligence will, most certainly play big in 5G, the cloud, the edge, smart “x”, self-driving “x” security, and so many more. In addition, each of these will, in turn, complement other technologies as well.
So far, we have seen little cross-pollination, except for, perhaps, AI. Recently I received a stream about how a Finnish research organization, VTT Technical Research Centre, and Nokia are moving in the direction of integrating 5G and autonomous vehicles. They are examining how 5G will transmit and receive data in the autonomous driving space.
At the moment, the work is focused on sensors that can be used to acquire data such as road conditions, traffic patterns, traffic flow and more. This first step will use radar, LiDAR and camera systems to exchange data from the vehicle and the infrastructure. Concurrently, data sensed by the infrastructure (weather, traffic cameras, lights, etc.) will be collected and sent to the vehicles. The goal is to use the Internet of Everything/Everyone (IoX) and its devices to interconnect with cloud-based servers to process information and disseminate it to the autonomous vehicle network. Data will be analyzed as to the location and be forwarded to edge networks relative to the information.
The two critical elements that 5G will bring to this, and why 5G will be necessary for it, is latency and bandwidth. For autonomous vehicles to function, efficiently and safely, data will be required in about as real-time as it gets – and there will be gobs of it. There can be no bandwidth bottlenecks. Redundancy must be absolute. 5G promises to make that happen.
In 5G, latency and bandwidth are two of the parameters that elevate it beyond present technologies. However, in the end, 5G will not only add new technologies but it will be the integration of all wireless technologies in its final form.
That is a critical theme in autonomous vehicles. While latency and bandwidth will be critical for real-time functionality, they are not the only criterion and will not be available ubiquitously, at least not for many years.
With most applications of enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), speed bumps can be tolerated. They may be an annoyance, but few will affect life-safety. Not so with autonomous vehicles. We do not, really, have a sense for how much bandwidth or latency will be required for a five-nines reliability factor for autonomous vehicle (personally I’m waiting for nine-nines). However, the number of messages that will be interchanged in this ecosystem, between vehicles and the infrastructure will easily be in the thousands per second. The trick will be to integrate other platforms, 4G, ITS G5, satellite, unlicensed, etc. to make sure the autonomous vehicle infrastructure has what it needs, wirelessly, when and where it needs it.
For example, lonely Wyoming highways will not have the same autonomous vehicle infrastructure requirements as New York or Los Angeles. Therefore, bandwidth and latency parameters may be able to be handled by technologies other than 5G.
As well, if there is a disconnect between the vehicle and the infrastructure, for whatever reason, autonomous vehicles still need to function. How that will work is still, for the most part, on the drawing boards and varies widely according to geography. Of course, in such a case, the vehicle can always fall back to level two or three, assuming that option is still available.
There are many elements that will be part of the autonomous vehicle infrastructure. The same can be said for every other infrastructure as well (as I mentioned at the beginning). We are only beginning to comprehend the various interconnect technologies and platforms will have as the various ecosystems evolve. What is encouraging is that the various industries are beginning to look beyond the 5G race hype, simply for the sake of 5G, to what the end value of 5G technologies will be.