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Self-Driving Cars Could Get Even Smarter With High-Speed 5G Mobile Data

Self-Driving Cars Could Get Even Smarter With High-Speed 5G Mobile Data Image
  • Posted on 20th Sep, 2022 15:09 PM
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5G wireless technology is used for smartphones, but it can also make self-driving cars smarter by delivering information and entertainment faster than the previous 4G standard.

  • The first 5G autonomous driving public demonstrations were recently held in Europe. 
  • There’s a growing movement to use high-speed 5G mobile data to give automobiles new high-tech features. 
  • One significant benefit of 5G is that it could make self-driving cars safer.


metamorworks / Getty Images

The arrival of 5G wireless technology makes browsing on your phone faster, and it could soon enable a wide range of upgrades, including speeding the adoption of autonomous vehicles. 

5G-MOBIX recently held the first 5G autonomous driving public demonstrations at the Spain-Portugal border. The company plans to deploy 5G corridors along cross-border locations and urban areas to meet the coverage demands of connected cars. It's part of a growing movement to use high-speed 5G mobile data to give automobiles new high-tech features. 

"The higher data rates and lower delays (latency) enabled by 5G allows communication of rich sensor data as well as real-time control between cars for greater safety and visibility," Sundeep Rangan, a professor at New York University, who was formerly the engineering director at wireless technology firm Qualcomm, told Lifewire in an email interview. 

Mobile Devices on Wheels

As a refresher, 5G is the current technology standard for cellular networks and offers faster download speeds. Verizon said it's working with car maker Audi to embed some vehicles with 5G. 

Self-driving vehicles require fast-processing artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms in the car, Cory Siansky, a technology consultant at digital consultancy Publicis Sapient, told Lifewire via email. 

Driverless cars will also require cloud-based processing with significantly better network responsiveness than we typically get from wireless data today. 

"The responsiveness improvement between 4G and 5G is measured in milliseconds—which is imperceptible to humans doing regular tasks—for example, browsing a shopping website," Siansky added. "But for self-driving cars, those extra milliseconds will help self-driving cars make the best driving decision as quickly as possible."

The new technology in Audi cars will allow a vehicle to connect to the Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband network and enable new driving features, connected services, and faster in-car Wi-Fi and entertainment.

"5G will turn the cars, essentially, into the ultimate mobile device," Scott Nash, the director of automotive solutions at Verizon Business, told Lifewire in an email interview. "Its incredible speed and bandwidth are perfect for handling massive amounts of data and information being collected and produced while on the road."

One significant benefit of 5G is that it could make self-driving cars safer, Nir Kshetri, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro who studies emerging technologies, told Lifewire in an email interview. For the autonomous vehicles industry, high latency is a concern with 4G LTE networks. 

The higher data rates and lower delays (latency) enabled by 5G allows communication of rich sensor data as well as real-time control between cars for greater safety and visibility.

"In order to maintain awareness of the surroundings and safely steer through traffic with vehicle-to-everything communications, autonomous vehicles need a one milliseconds (MS) latency," Kshetri added. "With 5G networks, an autonomous car will be able to hit the brakes and stop it within 1 inch, compared to 4 to 6 feet it takes with 4G."

Online mapping systems could soon work better than current solutions thanks to built-in 5G for cars. Current navigation systems use maps that may be updated every few months, Siansky said. Self-driving cars will require information, updated in real-time, and with finer resolution for all sorts of traffic. 

"This deployment can look different from each vehicle manufacturer (notably multiple cameras, radar, and lidar," he added.

Virtual Mechanics

The arrival of 5G data connections could allow your car to diagnose its own mechanical problems. Many modern cars already have a limited ability to diagnose problems, but the faster 5G connections will help make fixes a more automated process, experts say. 

"This is where drivers will experience impressive benefits, especially during the dreaded 'breakdown while driving' scenario," technology analyst Vaclav Vincalek told Lifewire in an email. 

5G-MOBIX

"In this case, an autonomous vehicle can immediately contact the dealership or perhaps a very advanced mechanic's shop. From there, the shop has access to all the vehicle's data and can diagnose the issue."

If your car problems are software-related, soon, you might not even have to take your auto into the shop to get it fixed. Over-the-Air updates (OTAs) are becoming the standard process with which automobiles will send and receive vehicle software updates to fix problems and deliver new features, and 5G will strengthen that service, Jillian Goldberg, the vice president of marketing and investor relations at the automotive technology company GuardKnox, said in an email. 

"There has already been a large rollout of the OTAs across many auto companies, including Ford and Toyota, and 5G will improve the quality of service and the connection," she added. "Furthermore, 5G will remove the necessity for the automobile to be hooked up to a Wi-Fi port, thus allowing remote vehicle diagnostics, repairs, updates, and new feature downloads—all from the road."

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