The era of “car socialization” has begun. As more and more vehicle manufacturers incorporate technologies that improve the awareness of cars on the road, the automobile and its environment must be more connected than ever. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) management recently released a letter emphasizing its desire to create a more hospitable driving environment for vehicles utilizing this “V2X,” or vehicle to everything, technology.
MDOT is currently pursuing this goal through the installation of “Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC), operating in the 5.9 Gigahertz (GHz) band…Roadside Infrastructure and Safety Applications throughout Michigan, including deploying the technology to increase safety at signalized intersections, and during traffic congestions and inclement weather.”
Dedicated Short-Range Communications are intended to improve communication between vehicles and infrastructure and the bandwidth, 5.9 GHz, is a preview of the new Fifth Generation (5G) system that is to come. Much like the evolution of 3G to 4G, the jump from 4G to 5G will make mobile connectivity even faster and more effective. The new 5G system is expected to operate more like Wi-Fi, with specific pockets of access, than coverage broadcast from towers like 3G and 4G because of its high frequency band requirement. At a higher frequency, signals are only able to travel short distances as compared to the coverage of 3G and 4G.
But what does this new technological development mean for consumers? At the Mobile World Congress (MWC), representatives from companies like Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia Networks discussed the change. Here are a few of the most important goals for 5G:
- “Significantly faster data speeds: Currently, 4G networks are capable of achieving peak download speeds of one gigabit per second…With 5G, this would increase to 10Gbps.
- Ultra-low latency: “Latency” refers to the time it takes one device to send a packet of data to another device. Currently with 4G, the latency rate is around 50 milliseconds, but 5G will reduce that to about one millisecond. This will be particularly important for industrial applications and driverless cars.
- A more “connected world”: The Internet of Things (wearables, smart home appliances, connected cars) is expected to grow exponentially over the next 10 years, and it will need a network that can accommodate billions of connected devices. Part of the goal behind 5G is to provide that capacity, and also to be able to assign bandwidth depending on the needs of the application and user.”
This technology is predicted to improve vehicle safety, as well as the performance and security of self-driving cars, causing the MDOT to test usage of this technology.
At MWC, Ulrich Dropmann, head of industry environment networks at Nokia, laid out a possible scenario for the vehicular applications of 5G: “…you might be cruising in your driverless car when, unbeknownst to you, a crash has just occurred up the road. With 5G, sensors placed along the road would be able to instantly relay that information back to your car (this is where having low latency is important), so it could brake earlier and avoid another accident.”
This new bandwidth remains in the testing phase but will continue to develop as demand for more connectivity grows. One of the main challenges to its future implementation is the standardization of the system, ensuring that it will support older devices using 3G and 4G services. Companies are currently producing and testing 5G chips, however, the third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), has stated that “5G phase 2” testing will not be finished until December of 2019 and the technology will not be available for public use for quite a while.