5G networks vital for autonomous vehicle connectivity

While the world waits in anticipation for its arrival, 5G has been identified as vital for autonomous vehicle connectivity.

According to Gartner, 5G networks may be as much as 10 times more efficient than 4G networks. With this new level of network capability, communications service providers (CSPs) can secure future market opportunities with manufacturers of autonomous vehicles in the fields of driver safety and data processing and management.

Autonomous vehicle systems and sensors will generate unprecedented amounts of data. This will allow automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to extract valuable data insights while limiting the associated provisioning costs.

“CSPs have an opportunity to become strategic partners for OEMs by applying 5G capabilities to address AV OEM data growth,” said Jonathan Davenport, Senior Research Analyst of Gartner.

By 2025, autonomous vehicles will upload more than 1TB of vehicle and sensor data per month to the cloud. This is up from from 30GB from advanced connected cars in 2018.

“To seize the opportunity, CSPs need to make sure 5G is included in the design of future vehicles, in the fields of safety and connectivity, where the biggest chances lie,” said Davenport.

5G will also provide passengers of autonomous vehicles with high-quality infotainment services. “As a result, 5G networks make CSPs an important partner for enhanced vehicle systems, be it for safety, data analytics or entertainment,” he added.

Further opportunities for 5G technology to expand and enhance autonomous vehicle safety systems exist. This is fostered by regulators’ examination of the safety performance of autonomous vehicles.

“Autonomous vehicles periodically face a set of conditions they cannot immediately navigate, which results in the need for a vehicle-human handover. This handover deactivates the autonomous mode and hands over control to a human driver — but such a handover is not always possible. One potential solution for these scenarios where a handover to the human driver fails is to use remote pilots. Human pilots can be the recipient of a planned remote handover or help recover an AV that has become stuck,” said Davenport.

The safe execution of human-led remote control of autonomous vehicles would require the reliability and low latency that 5G networks could provide. Once initiated, the technology would allow human technicians in remote facilities to assess live video feeds and vehicle diagnostics from the autonomous vehicle, and take over driving control virtually.

5G is not a technology that can be fully deployed right now, and Gartner expects that it will generate only limited benefits for autonomous vehicles in the next five years.

“By design, autonomous vehicles cannot rely on mobile networks such as 5G for core functionality, but must utilise multiple technologies to meet performance and safety design objectives. Nevertheless, 5G networks will play a crucial role in handling the massive amounts of data generated by autonomous vehicles and their users for all kinds of purposes, including safety, connectivity and entertainment,” said Davenport.

CSPs must act now to secure future market opportunities by ensuring that 5G is part of the autonomous vehicle design process. OEMs will need comprehensive end-to-end data solutions to streamline their management of data connectivity, storage and analytics.

“In addition to offering solutions, CSPs have to build support for their 5G technologies and establish them as the de facto communication standard. This would be best achieved by supporting standards committees and working with local governments to facilitate the development of advanced use cases, such as metropolitan traffic management,” said Davenport.

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