- By Yamuna Bindu
- With each passing year, the world is becoming smaller. While this connection was formerly people-to-people, the future of global communication will be defined as people-to-everything – including transport. This article will explore how 5G can enable urban mobility to a whole new level.
We have gradually made our way through four generations of wireless networking – it is only going to get better as the fifth-generation of interconnectedness arrives. Our lives are set to become more interconnected than ever before as 5G connects doctors to their patients’ personal devices, vehicles to their vicinity, and enables augmented reality.
Let’s take a look at how 5G can enable urban mobility to be better than ever before.
The Evolution of Networks: Transforming the World
“I think the hype is about how things are gonna to be ten years from now with 5G, not how it will be at launch,” stated Ron Marquardt, the Vice-President of Sprint’s technology department.
Clearly, 5G holds immense potential and a fascinating world of possibiltiies. 4G was exciting enough, with enhanced speed enabling fast downloading of high-graphic content. But the fifth-generation wireless network promises to run self-driving vehicles and entire smart cities!
Not only will the 5G network be 10 times faster than 4G, it will be able to support up to a million devices per square kilometer, allowing users to transit loads of data in the blink of an eye.
How 5G Can Enable Urban Mobility
Automobile manufacturers and government transportation departments are both planning on leveraging the power of 5G to usher in a new era of autonomous vehicles, improve safety and reduce traffic congestion. Here’s how 5G can enable urban mobility:
- Connected Cars
The current 4G network is capable of allowing online streaming of full HD content and high-graphic games, but will not be able to support autonomous or connected cars.
As stated by Nokia’s Jane Rygaard in an interview with BBC, “We need to look at how long it takes for the message to be transmitted between sensors and then get to the computer in each car, and then, how long it takes for the computer to make a decision. And all of this has to be in less time than a human would take to make a decision – 2 milliseconds.”
This incapability of 4G is considered to be the reason behind the infamous self-driving Uber vehicle fatality.
With millisecond latencies, network slicing capabilities, and high bandwidth, 5G is certainly the future of autonomous and connected vehicles.
One of the most popular use cases for 5G in connected vehicles will be in sharing ‘braking data.’
Say, you are commuting in a connected car and other connected vehicles in front of you come to a sudden halt. This can prove to be a major safety hazard. Having your vehicle equipped with the ability to predict a sudden stop can be of great help in terms of safety.
However, sharing ‘braking data’ over great distances could prove to be futile – latency could stand in the way of attaining timely information. This is where 5G and edge computing come to play.
Moreover, autonomous vehicles require highly exceptional data processing capabilities as their hundreds and thousands of sensors generate unprecedented volumes of data (nearly 2 petabits or 2 million gigabits, as stated by Dr. Joy Laskar, CTO of Maja Systems). With the current network capabilities, it will take around 230 days to transfer a week’s worth of data from a single self-driving car!
Managing, processing, and analysis of such gargantuan volumes is only feasible via a network as fast and connected as 5G.
- Remote Pilots
5G can bring to life another exciting and crucial safety feature for autonomous vehicles – remote pilots.
Say, a self-driving car is finding it difficult to navigate its way through a traffic jam caused due to a road accident. Normally, the autopilot would hand over the reins to the driver. But, this can be a problem in the case of an elderly or a disabled driver.
To solve this problem, tech companies are trying to introduce the remote pilot feature where trained drivers sitting miles apart in a simulator can immediately take the vehicle’s reins. To make this feature a reality, the stability and speed provided by a 5G network are imperative.
- Public Transportation System
The 5G network can transform the public transportation system by connecting vehicles, pedestrians, and urban infrastructure with each other.
Where vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies can detect time signals (when other vehicles are approaching), vehicle-to-vehicle technologies will allow one smart vehicle to communicate to the other to maximize road space.
Vehicle-to-pedestrian technologies allows vehicles to automatically stop at traffic crossings and warn pedestrian devices when a vehicle is advancing at an unsafe pace. This will regulate the traffic flow.
Another important way in which 5G will improve traffic flow is through traffic signals that will change based on the real-time road traffic situation, as monitored via cameras and sensors. Peak rush hours will become streamlined, making public transportation an attractive option.
With 5G technology, route planning can be greatly enhanced for buses and trains – live traffic updates and route mapping. This will reduce wait times for passengers and strengthen their faith in their chosen mode of transport. 5G network will offer driver-assistance at lower operational costs.
For example – bus drivers can receive real-time recommendations such as “wait for 3 minutes in the next terminal to pick up 10 more passengers” and passengers will receive recommendations such as “take the bus at Stop C within the next 10 minutes.”
Furthermore, vehicle platooning – a part of the suite of features of semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles where a group of vehicles travels very closely together in a straight line via vehicle-to-vehicle communication – will also become a reality due to 5G.
Buses and trucks travelling via the same route can be set in a platoon to enhance road safety, help in managing commuting demands during peak hours, reduce marginal costs, and increase road capacity. Moreover, such buses traveling in a platoon can meet additional passenger demand – a great help for fleet operators.
Furthermore, 5G-enabled trains have already been put to the test, with vigorous experiments being conducted on a regular basis.
For example – in Germany, a railcar by the name ‘Lucy’ was tested via a 5G network provided by Vodafone, the bandwidth of which was greater than 500 megabits/sec. The train was remotely controlled by a driver sitting at a desk with two screens displaying images transmitted from the train. The delay in projecting the images was a little less than 10 milliseconds.
- Electric Vehicles
Freeman Shen, owner of China’s famous electric vehicle startup, WM Motor Technology, was found saying at the Fortune Global Tech Forum that there was only one reason that he decided to establish an electric vehicle company at a time when the EV sector in China had been hardly established. “Because I know 5G is coming!”
As of today, the company has around 15,000 EV vehicles up and running. Shen explained that WM’s EV vehicles are not merely mediums for transportation, but can also serve as highly ‘smart mobility terminals’ – a function that will need 5G’s aid.
Since advanced safety and real-time vehicle diagnosis are the two key factors that need to be focused on, vehicle interface can be significantly improved using 5G’s hyper-connectivity. 5G will also make it possible to bring in the next level of Cellular network – C-V2X or Cellular vehicle to everything – that will better help in controlling future mobility.
Vehicle-to-vehicle communication gives no room for mistakes or slowdowns. 5G’s lower latency, extended coverage, and higher speed will not only make video streaming a breeze but will allow electric vehicles to gather information from the surrounding urban infrastructure – traffic signals, pedestrians, other vehicles, even buildings.
Not only that, with the 5G network, electric cars will be able to reboot themselves multiple times efficiently with minimal fluctuations in-between.
Finally, as is the case with any exciting undertaking, 5G implementation in urban mobility will have its own challenges – It relies on a highly dense, fiber-optic network that is very expensive to build.
The network alone will not do the trick. Urban ecosystems need to be transformed – businesses, city governments, civic organizations, and residents – to make the dream of a truly smart city come to life. In collaboration and proper cooperation, not only can such challenges be overcome, but future smart cities will become a safer and better place to dwell in.