5G for Autonomy

Although there seems to be tremendous concentration (or at least coverage) of autonomous vehicles as independent, stand-alone entities that will roll through the highways and byways depending only on their camera and LiDAR systems, truly effective autonomous vehicles are going to need to communicate with the outside world, and that 4G LTE system that you have running on your cell phone isn’t going to cut it.

Although there seems to be tremendous concentration (or at least coverage) of autonomous vehicles as independent, stand-alone entities that will roll through the highways and byways depending only on their camera and LiDAR systems, truly effective autonomous vehicles are going to need to communicate with the outside world, and that 4G LTE system that you have running on your cell phone isn’t going to cut it.

There will need to be an alternative that’s capable of greater data speeds. Like 5G. This is a technology that’s coming, but it isn’t a matter of telecom companies turning up the dial from 4 to 5. It will take a buildout of more communications antennas in order to provide the higher-speed data rates, exceedingly low latency, and connectivity required—especially in a world where everyone will have 5G on their phones as well as in their cars. (Well, not everyone, but lots of people.)

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DOCOMO

NTT DOCOMO, the Japanese telecom company (which not only has an LTE network running in Japan, but a 3G network as well), recently ran a trial of 5G for automotive applications along with Toyota, Ericsson and Intel. They equipped a Toyota minivan—an Alphard—with a specially designed antenna and an Intel GO 5G Automotive Platform terminal, and ran it through a section of Tokyo where they setup multiple Ericsson base stations using the Cloud RAN architecture.

They were able to achieve data speeds up to 1 Gbps downlink/600 Mbps uplink and 4K-resolution video communication. The vehicle was traveling at 30 kmph—or about 19 mph.

Here’s hoping that the speed of the data isn’t correlated with the speed of the minivan.