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Building the 5G highway for connected cars

The freedom of the road has been cherished by many people for a long time, yet with increasing environmental pollution, growing road accidents and the shear waste of time spent in traffic jams, it’s no wonder people are beginning to re-think how we get around.

Many are hoping that automated driving and connected cars will help address some of these issues. In fact, the automotive industry accepts that vehicles will need to communicate with each other, as well as with road side infrastructure and network services, to keep traffic safe and efficient.

Two giant industries, one destination

One of the big challenges in making the connected car a part of our everyday lives is that two huge industries, automotive and telecommunications, must work together to make it a reality. Organisations involved include telecommunication service providers, telecommunication equipment manufacturers, car manufacturers and their suppliers, map providers and road operators, to name a few.  

To kick-start this eco-system, the leading car manufacturers and telecommunications companies – including Nokia - founded the “5G Automotive Association” (5GAA) in 2016. Its 120+ members aim to bring automotive and telecommunications together to harmonize and accelerate the introduction of intelligent transport and communication solutions.

The road from 4G to 5G

The 5GAA estimated that more than 100 million vehicles on our roads are already connected, with the number growing rapidly1. Most new cars and soon all new vehicles are expected to be connected using some kind of cellular connectivity, supporting cloud based telematics, infotainment and other services to improve comfort and safety.

Some manufacturers already use mobile networks to warn their own cars about congested roads, broken down vehicles, accidents or bad weather, a method known as vehicle to network (V2N). Now projects are in hand to exchange such warnings between vehicles of different manufacturers and in several European countries.

The 3GPP Rel14 standards defined an LTE based unified Cellular-V2X (C-V2X) technology. Also called PC5 based communication, it allows direct communication between vehicles (V2V) and between vehicles and road infrastructure (V2I), with a very low latency of below 50ms. Direct PC5 communication is also expected to be supported by smartphones (V2P) in the near future.

The industry recognises that the rapidly growing volumes of sensor and other data sent between cars cannot be processed centrally, but needs to be processed locally.

The key to this is the Edge cloud, a 4G technology that will also evolve in 5G. Distributed computing increases the reliability and security of network services for connected cars and reduces the latency for C-V2X services. It also enables new applications.

5G boosts benefits for connected vehicles

3GPP Release 15 introduced 5G New Radio (5G NR). Enabling higher data rates and lower latencies for V2N network communications, the first deployments in commercial vehicles are expected to start as early as 2021.

Release 16 goes further, introducing massive Machine-to-Machine communications with Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC). The result will be greatly increased bandwidth, an even lower latency and using 5G NR to support V2V and V2I, often referred to as 5G-V2X.

This offers key features that support higher levels of cooperative automated driving. A 5GAA white paper1 looked at the new functions it makes possible, including:

  • Sharing sensor data, such as video from the car in front
  • Control information to allow vehicles to drive in close formation, saving road space
  • Exchanging vehicle trajectories to prevent collisions

These advanced examples of V2V and V2I communications are clearly only feasible thanks to 5G technology.

The earliest deployments using Release 16 are expected in 2023. Although the physical radio layers of LTE releases and 5G NR are very different, the chipsets and associated communication stacks will integrate the different radio technologies, supporting smooth operation and backward compatibility of services.

With both the telecom and automotive industries on board, the connected car is really going places. Visit our new website for more information about extraordinary 5G connected vehicle experiences.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using #5G #IoT

1  source: Timeline for deployment of C-V2X – Update, 5GAA, 22.1.2019, https://5gaa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/5GAA_White-Paper-CV2X-Roadm…