For the longest time I have been saying that truly, fully autonomous vehicles cannot happen until the vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) is in place. Fully autonomous vehicles must be able to send and receive data from not only each other, not only from sensors (audio, video, RF, etc.), but from everythingaround them (except for, maybe the raccoon rummaging around near the road). But certainly, people, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, mopeds, baby carriages…the list is staggering.
But to be able to navigate with the capabilities of humans, vehicles need the equivalent of eyes, ears and the brain to analyze the data. Sensors, to act as eyes and ears, alone, are not sufficiently advanced and likely may never be able to offer enough data to be able to analyze the way the brain does. Therefore, AI-based brain emulators need more than just audio and video – they need push data!
Today much can be accomplished in the driver assist category with bleeding edge sensors of varying types. But sensors alone will never enable the vision of steering wheel- and pedal-less vehicles.
It seems the government is thinking along the same lines. I just got a feed from what I consider to be the top wireless brain trust in the country, New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering and home of NYU Wireless, that they are partnering with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop “smart” roads.
This is exciting. The ink is not even dry on 5G. Actually, it has yet to be inked, but forward-thinking minds are hard at work on taking the next step.
Actually, this is a great place to start. Looping back to the beginning of this piece, smart roads are a giant leap in reaching level 5, or full autonomy where the vehicle’s performance is “equal to that of a human driver, in everydriving scenario.”
This is just beginning and is a monumental undertaking – to make our road infrastructure smart. But getting the technology in place is the first step. Getting it into the transportation infrastructure is a discussion for another time and much further out.
This is the stuff Sci-Fi is made of. Roads that can communicate with vehicles at blazing speeds – centimeter-precision positioning, high-resolution imaging, road surface analysis and more – with latencies of a few nanoseconds, at extremely low-power levels, and jam-proof signals.
The research is using a technology called “whisper radio.” This technology is based on what is called “radio whispers” – subnoise signals that require almost no power and are capable of tapping into unused frequencies. The technology is a cousin to frequency hopping spread-spectrum. The nature, power and access schemes of this technology make it, virtually, impossible to jam or compromise (meaning a hacker cannot replicate the signals or create spoofs to fool the network).
Research in this area has been going on for a couple of years now. Smart roads are only one of several applications where this is being studied. The current research by DARPA and NYU is looking at frequencies up to 1 THz!
But the fact that NYU is involved is promising. They have been doing milliwave work for years, and have a significant wheelhouse of knowledge as well as some of the brightest minds in the country (can you tell I’m a fan)? And that both DARPA and NYU think this has merit in the autonomous vehicle arena means that we are one step closer to level 5 autonomous vehicles, and V2I is validated.
But after all of this, what is most exciting is the mention of 6G. Is it vapor technology, yes, pretty much – at this stage, at least. But so was mmWave at one point. This may be the beginning of a new generation of uber-high frequency communications with, who knows how many potential applications. True that the range is ultra-short, but my imagination runs wild with a world full of micro-motes using sub-noise communications in everything from medicine to military.
Am I dreaming? Perhaps…naw, I don’t think so.