I was there: eyewitness accounts of 5G in action. The autonomous car ride
On a street in Espoo, near Helsinki, I found myself looking at a vision of the future. A car moved down the street, its only occupant not ‘driving’ but sitting back and enjoying the ride.
Many tests of autonomous vehicles are taking place worldwide, but I couldn’t help thinking that when such cars can survive all the extremes the Nordic region can throw at them, they will survive on the road almost anywhere!
Digging a little further, I discovered this was no ordinary autonomous car test. “Juto”, named after the Sámi language word for sleigh reindeer who always find their way home despite the weather, is a car equipped with 5G technology. Being tested by Telia, Sensible 4 and Nokia, it represents the future of automated car communications.
“What does 5G give us?” you may well ask.
Current autonomous cars collect data about their surroundings using sensors such as radars, laser scanners and cameras. Smart onboard software processes the data to draw conclusions and give control commands to the car.
But, is this enough to cope with the real world? Just like human drivers, these autonomous cars will need to deal with many other vehicles, pedestrians and varying traffic conditions, as well as information that human drivers get from signs and traffic updates. The cars will need to communicate not only with each other, but also with road side infrastructure and smart city network services to really make it happen.
That’s where mobile technologies such as 4G or 5G come in. On Espoo’s streets, I was witnessing an early trial of how 5G can enable real-time monitoring and communications between a Nokia 5G control room and the vehicle.
5G will revolutionize vehicle communications
Cellular vehicle to everything C-V2X.
The industry has already been working for some time on LTE based car communications. In fact, Nokia is a member of the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), a strong proponent of 3GPP’s cellular-based technology called “cellular vehicle to everything” (C-V2X) that enables the wide variety of communications that will be needed. This includes vehicle to vehicle (V2V), vehicle to infrastructure such as traffic lights and road signs (V2I), vehicle to the network infrastructure for value adding cloud services (V2N) and, finally, to passengers or pedestrians (V2P).
Through vehicle-to-everything communication, cellular technologies will transform the entire mobility ecosystem. With a strong evolutionary path to 5G, C-V2X technology will offer a superior performance to connected vehicles, leading to less congestion, reduced emissions and a smoother driving experience.
5G low latency and massive communications are key
The forthcoming 3GPP standards - versions 14, 15 and 16 - take 5G capabilities on board, allowing low latency communication and higher data rates for V2V, V2I and V2N. Ultimately capable of massive machine-to-machine communications and ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC), these technologies will give cars real-time situational awareness and allow them to cooperate with other autonomous vehicles in emergencies.
We can all expect safer roads and journeys thanks to efficient and timely flow of information between vehicles, pedestrians and road infrastructure.
Back in Espoo, as the test concludes, and the passenger alights, I see a happy thumbs up among the test team, while the control room captured all the environmental data it needed in real time. We rounded up with a cup of tea and a talk about how these tests can help build a bright future for collaborations between 5G operators such as Telia, the automotive industry and governments for automated transport.
Janne Koistinen, Telia’s 5G program director joined us to say “It’s cool enough to see an autonomous car in motion, but today’s experiment shows how autonomous vehicles can be connected to the wider infrastructure, using the real-time capabilities of 5G.”
Take a look at the short video featuring Juto and discover how V2X combined with Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC), accelerates the adoption of Vehicle-to-Everything communications on the way to 5G.
 C-V2X information courtesy of Martin Beltrop, CAR2X lead at Nokia.
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