Why 5G connectivity will be key to the future of the connected car

Communications service providers (CSPs) need to get their acts together, according to analyst firm Gartner, as opportunities will ramp up in utilising 5G for autonomous vehicle connectivity.

CSPs can ‘secure future market opportunities’ with autonomous vehicle manufacturers, Gartner added, in areas such as driver safety and data processing and management.

There will be a huge amount of data at play here. By 2025, autonomous vehicles will upload more than 1 terabyte of vehicle and sensor data to the cloud per month – a huge increase on 30GB today. To ensure this process is as smooth as possible, CSPs need to make 5G a design requirement in future vehicles.

Gartner said there will be only limited benefits from 5G in the coming five years – but despite this CSPs need to act immediately. “By design, AVs cannot rely on mobile networks such as 5G for core functionality, but most utilise multiple technologies to meet performance and safety design objectives,” said Jonathan Davenport, senior research analyst at Gartner. “Nevertheless, 5G networks will play a crucial role in handling the massive amounts of data generated by AVs and their users for all kinds of purposes, including safety, connectivity and entertainment.”

Looking at the safety perspective – particularly in light of recent events concerning self-driving cars – Gartner posits remote piloting as a potential solution, with 5G connectivity being vital for its reliability and low latency.

“AVs 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,” said Davenport. “Human pilots can be the recipient of a planned remote handover or help recover an AV that has become stuck.”

The chances of full autonomy any time soon are of course now considered virtually nil. Indeed, last month BlackBerry CEO John Chen – whose QNX software is a leading player in automotive – said it will be at least a decade before self-driving cars become mainstream. Ultimately, however, a large part of the battle will be around giving OEMs end to end data connectivity and compatibility.

“CSPs have to build support for their 5G technologies and establish them as the de facto communication standard,” added Davenport. “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.”

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