Self driving cars: enroute to 5G
The zero-accident road network may be a little closer than we thought
Europe's highways are safer now than they have ever been. Road deaths fell by 18%, in the EU between 2010 and 2014, as new policies and safer vehicles were adopted across the member states. It's a similar story in the United States, where in 2014 total fatalities also decreased, continuing a trend that has seen deaths fall by 25% in the last 10 years.
These improvements have probably corresponded with the rapid development of intelligent transport systems for road vehicles and networks. New radio technologies, 3D radars, sensors, cameras, video analytics software, and more precise location capabilities are all helping to keep drivers and their passengers safe. And this will continue as more and more vehicles fitted with this technology are introduced onto our roads.
The realization of two major technological milestones is critical to this success: passive safety, whereby telematics and location-based services are introduced into road vehicles, and active safety, where Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) utilize obstacle-detection to reduce the chance of an accident occurring.
Road safety technology, however, is just at the starting point. V2V (vehicle to vehicle) and V2I (vehicle to infrastructure) communication technologies are envisaged to further enhance safety. And ultimately V2X (vehicle to everything) consisting of V2V, V2I, vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P), and vehicle-to-network applications (V2N) will deliver a truly intelligent transport system with different levels of automated driving and many other services.
Inevitably, V2X will require communication technologies that are capable of quickly, securely and reliably exchanging information, and already there are several options. The early frontrunner is ITS G5, or Intelligent Transport System, which operates in the 5GHz range, and is an adaptation of the widely-used IEEE 802.11 standard for Wi-Fi to incorporate Wireless Access in Vehicular Environments (WAVE).
As a readily-available, internationally-recognized standard which does not require licensed spectrum, it appears that G5 is well placed. No network architecture is needed to provide peer-to-peer communications between vehicles and road infrastructure, meaning that it could be deployed on any road, and even in rural areas where there is limited telecoms infrastructure. On the other hand, there is no global radio networking infrastructure monitoring and supervising which user equipment (UE) is connected. That can be perceived as a security breach.
The other option is 5G, the fifth generation of mobile networks and an evolution of 4G LTE, is considered the logical technology on which to base these V2X networks, with short and long range, high bit rates, very low latency and enhanced security.
Currently 5G is under definition and standardization is expected in 2018/2019. While we wait for the commercial availability of 5G networks, many of the benefits of V2X can already now be delivered by complementing G5 with the key features of LTE.
Indeed with LTE, several services can be provided today: preventative maintenance, in-car infotainment, car software upgrades, navigation services, traffic information and hazard prevention - all with the reassurance of reliable cyber security software, access control and unified threat management.
In addition, LTE can draw on mobile edge computing capabilities meaning that the vehicles using the system do not have to rely on the entire LTE network architecture. Instead they compute local data within cells rather than the cloud when travelling, cutting end-to-end latency to approximately 20 milliseconds, reducing the transit time for critical safety information.
Last but not least, the 3GPP is also working on defining potential requirements for LTE support for vehicular communications services (V2X) on both safety and non-safety aspects.
Comparing G5, LTE and 5G
|ITS G5||LTE + Edge Computing||5G|
|Standardization||IEEE 802.11 P||3GPP||3GPP|
|Spectrum||5,9 GHz (Europe, USA), 760MHz (Japan)
|3GPP bands||400 MHz to 100 GHz
Licensed and unlicensed spectrum
|Latency||Few ms (depend on number of vehicles on the road)||~20 ms with edge computing||<1 ms|
|Range||Few 100 meters||Several Km - depends on the frequency||Several Km - depends on the frequency|
|Data rates||3, 4.5, 6, 9, 12, 18, 24 and 27 Mbps||Up to 150 Mbps||more than 10 Gbps|
|Network infrastructure||No. Direct mode||Network mode
Direct mode in Release 12
|Both. Direct and network mode|
|Security||Encryption, authentication,||End-2-end authentication, encryption, access control, supervision, threat management||End-2-end authentication, encryption, access control, supervision, threat management|
|Example of applications||V2V, V2I||IoT, Infotainment, traffic management, eCall, bCall, location services, software upgrades, assisted driving||V2V, V2I, V2P, V2N, IoT, Infotainment, traffic management, eCall, bCall, location services, software upgrades|
5G will be reality down the road, but it is possible to realize some of its benefits today via LTE enriched with mobile edge computing. The first trials of a V2X test bed are already underway on Germany’s A9 motorway showing the new capabilities this combination can bring.
The zero-accident road network may be a little closer than we thought!
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