If you’ve purchased a brand-new car in the last year or two, you will almost certainly be enjoying an element of connectivity.

Most new cars hitting the road today have connected navigation systems which can update traffic in real time and divert you onto a faster route if necessary. You will also likely have your smartphone fully connected to your car,  perhaps enjoying mirror screen technology. Messaging and voice calls are available using voice control, and you’ll be listening to the music on your phone through your car, too.

However, this is just the start of what is possible for the future.

5G will bring us the possibility of self-driving cars, the additional benefits of V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) connectivity, and put us firmly on the road to V2X (vehicle to everything) connectivity.

Here’s how.

The Universal Benefits of 5G Connectivity

Most of us are currently using 4G networks. These have brought many benefits at home and on the move. For the first time, we’ve got mobile connections fast enough to support online gaming and a reasonable quality of video streaming.  In our cars, embedded SIM cards are bringing live traffic and other useful driver information via a 4G connection.

However, we are starting to see 5G networks being rolled out across the world. By 2020, most countries will have some access to a 5G connection. Ericsson forecasts that by 2024, up to 65% of the world’s population will be covered.

There are three main universal benefits of 5G connections:

  • Much faster mobile data connection speeds
  • Reduced latency, meaning starting a connection is faster. Indeed, instantaneous connections are expected.
  • A greater number of connections can be supported without a reduction in bandwidth.

What benefits will these bring to drivers that haven’t been possible with 4G?

●       Safe Self-Driving Cars

For a start, it is the introduction of new 5G networks that put mainstream self-driving cars just over the horizon. The improved connectivity that 5G will bring is one of the elements that is vital for this technology to reach the mainstream.

Here’s why.

To ensure passenger safety, it is essential that a self-driving car’s computer can make a decision as quickly as a human can. The human decision-making process typically takes several milliseconds to assess danger and begin to act on information.

A self-driving car collects a vast amount of data from its sensors. Therefore, it needs an incredibly fast network to process data in real time. 4G has not been sufficiently fast enough, but 5G has the capability to offer the speeds that self-driving cars need. Indeed, once it is widely adopted, it is anticipated that 5G will reach speeds 100 times faster than 4G.

Therefore, because of fast, multiple connections and reduced latency, 5G will routinely be able to match human decision-making speed, and even improve upon it. It is expected that the equivalent decision from a self-driving car using a 5G connection would be 5 milliseconds.

●       Vehicle to Vehicle Connectivity (V2V)

5G connectivity allows the self-driving car’s own sensors and computer to communicate internally. It also opens up the possibility of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) data sharing. This means that vehicles will be able to alert each other to dangers and changes in road conditions. 5G connections allow a self-driving car to adjust its speed, direction and planned journey instantaneously, and long before any human driver would be aware of an issue.

With this technology, we will see an intelligent transport system that is part of a much safer road network.

●       Vehicle to Everything Connectivity (V2X)

Building on V2V, vehicle to everything is also a possibility with 5G connectivity. With V2X  connectivity, cars will not only talk to each other, but they will also be connected with the transport infrastructure system. V2X means that it will be possible for cars to share information with items such as overhead gantries, and even streetlights.

With V2X comes intricate knowledge of traffic and road conditions. This information can be used to improve traffic flow, reduce emissions and prevent accidents. It will, therefore, be a highly intelligent, fully integrated system that vastly improves user experience.

A Fully Connected Network of Self-Driving Cars

The much faster and more reliable connections brought to us by 5G mean that a fully integrated system of self-driving cars is now around the corner.

The 5G network will improve road users’ experiences by helping to bring not only the many in-car benefits of self-driving cars, but also an improved road infrastructure that is safer, less congested, and more environment-friendly.

This is the future of transportation — a smart, driverless solution to today’s global transport issues.

About the Author

Ahmed Bahrozyan is the Chief Executive Officer of the Public Transport Agency – Roads and Transport Authority in the United Arab Emirates which is responsible for providing for the needs of public transport in the city. He is also Chairperson of the Dubai World Congress for Self-Driving Transport organizing committee.