To address the challenges of commercialization and bring 5G experiences to the automotive industry in a unified way this year, we must make smart investments and commit to forging strong cross-industry partnerships., explains Ram Iyer, Senior VP, SBU Connectivity at HARMAN.
Whether you’re taking the scenic route or zipping down the freeway, connectivity today requires extreme precision and speed. From navigation screens to dash cams, information sent to and from drivers and passengers must be seamless and virtually flawless.
That fast-growing need puts 5G wireless data at the forefront of the latest automotive innovations. And self-driving vehicles may be the tip of the iceberg. Industry pioneers are tapping into low-latency, high-speed transmissions to drive new connected car concepts that could help shape how cities are structured, how businesses operate, and how many of us live day to day.
That all starts with smarter cars for a safer and less hectic future — a major calling for the automotive industry, which could see revenue pools grow by 30 percent in the next eight years, exceeding $5 trillion, per McKinsey.
With the latest 5G services and edge computing technologies, companies are testing new fully connected car concepts to meet today’s driver needs. The shared goal is to create a modern vehicle that will serve as a personalized smartphone, automated assistant, and real-time traffic and weather correspondent while also being able to transmit data in emergencies securely.
Wheels of Innovation for Smart Cities
Without automotive innovation, urban planners can only move the needle so far. There are now hundreds of smart city projects around the globe, and the World Bank estimates that there could be as many as 2 billion cars on the road by 2050. Creating more coordinated roadway systems, and avoiding global gridlock, will require intricate data systems that rely on sensors embedded in everything from street surfaces to the vehicles that drive over them.
One of the biggest innovations in progress is vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology, which enables direct communication between vehicles and their surroundings, including other cars. V2X and vehicle networks — often referred to as “the internet of things (IoT) on the road” — first launched in the U.S., Europe, and Japan and became standardized around 2010. Most recently, V2X technology has developed to include highly attuned software that can detect and interact with everything from road signs and bumper-to-bumper traffic to potholes and more severely damaged pavement, all through in-vehicle touchscreens. Sensors fueled by 5G transmissions can now be embedded in multiple parts of a single vehicle to ensure safe and seamless navigation while ensuring privacy for every owner and operator.
For example, multi-edge computing software platforms like MECWAVE utilize ultra-low latency signals to accelerate the deployment and extension of V2X to non-V2X-capable vehicles and devices, including bikes, scooters, smartphones, and smart glasses. MECWAVE is complemented by two additional solutions: HARMAN Savari StreetWAVE and Savari MobiWAVE, which can be used together or independently to enhance vehicle communication.
Navigating the Future
Another major advancement in the works is in-vehicle mapping, which allows navigation systems to accurately identify specific locations and incidents at a moment’s notice with no interference. In-vehicle GPS navigation systems are constantly evolving, and the rapid growth of V2X will further advance detailed mapping for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Daily traffic, weather, and other services centralized in the cloud are becoming far more tangible to commercial and consumer drivers through 5G networks and edge computing, paving the way for smoother road services. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these technologies can greatly improve the accuracy and effectiveness of today’s vehicle features.
Whereas mobile apps have topped nearly every list of tech innovations in recent years, the low latency and high throughput of 5G, as well as its reliability, unlocks endless potential for the automotive industry going forward. Every essential feature, from car monitors and cameras to tailored entertainment and news, is ripe for improvement. In-vehicle display screens will offer a richer experience that can be enhanced with 3D mapping, HD video, and cloud-based streaming, while optimized data transfer speeds will save both automakers and drivers time and money.
Of course, the future of the automotive world isn’t just about the latest bells and whistles — it’s about giving both drivers and pedestrians greater control. Such a task calls for incredibly responsive and reliable data through trusted providers and secure platforms that can hold up even in far remote areas. 5G delivers greater reliability, which is crucial in such scenarios, making it a key factor in critical decision-making in the car.
Mobility, Networking and Safety
With network speeds steadily improving, the number of 5G users around the world has skyrocketed in recent years from under 200 million subscribers in 2019 to more than 650 million at the end of last year, according to Ericsson’s latest mobility report. North America has been leading the charge with a 5G penetration rate of nearly 30 percent in 2021. Globally, the number of commercial and consumer 5G users is expected to surpass 1 billion by the end of this year.
The global market for automotive technology that utilizes 5G is equally poised for steady growth, as drivers and pedestrians need near-instant notification of car accidents and other traffic hazards, road construction, and extreme weather conditions in today’s world.
The 5G Automotive Association and eight of its global members, including Verizon, Intel, and HARMAN, recently partnered with local public groups in Virginia to test this concept during a live trial in Blacksburg. Using 5G signals and multi-access edge computing, high-speed computers link with car sensors and smartphones to provide live data through user-authorized apps. For example, all connected devices receive a warning message if a potentially dangerous situation is nearby.
These advancements are key to reducing traffic-related incidents, which have been rising at a record pace. There are roughly 6 million car accidents every year in the U.S., and road crashes remain the leading cause of death in our country. Rather than simply detecting their surroundings, 5G-enabled cars, trucks, and other vehicles can now correspond with them on the spot to help minimize collisions and make our streets safer.
And given that more of our time will be spent in vehicles as we transition to electric cars and autonomous driving, connected cars will increasingly get remote software and firmware updates to help keep their internal tech up to date. The ongoing expansion of 5G will allow for larger data volumes to be sent to and from vehicles at faster speeds over time.
Likewise, passengers will be able to stream, chat, and upload content at faster speeds without compromising quality to create a more immersive experience. Who knows? As more workers head back to the office and commute times increase, you may wind up joining your next video conference from the passenger seat.