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The Impact of 5G on Autonomous Vehicles

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

What are the ways 5G is set to enhance High Definition (HD) mapping and more?

One of the key aspects of 5G is the uplink data rate, which is data moving from the vehicle to the cloud. Compared to 4G, 5G significantly increases the sustainable bandwidth of both the uplink as well as the downlink. But that by itself is not good enough. How do you get close to real-time decision making? This would translate back to ultra-low latency with guaranteed jitter and delivery.

Second, High Definition (HD) mapping requires high-speed bandwidth to transmit massive volumes of data. HD mapping also insists on location precision in order to know where objects are relative to each other. A third necessary element is a support for high vehicle density per cell site. Making it possible for many vehicles to be close to each other and at the same time access a high sustainable data rate is very important.

One thing that 5G provides, for the first time, is latency in sub-milliseconds. Today, if we look at 4G LTE we have 10-30 milliseconds elapse for a round-trip communication, but for 5G it would be under one millisecond, which is almost near real-time. The time can be further reduced. The peak bandwidth of the downlink is going to be about 20 Gbps, whereas sustainable bandwidth is 1 Gbps for the downlink. But sustainable uplink is also on the order of 10 Mbps. Peak bandwidth can go in the order of 100 Mbps. Having a sustainable uplink of 10 Mbps and a sustainable download of 1 Gbps is a big deal. 5G will improve vehicle density by 100x compared to 4G, i.e., 5G will achieve 100 times more density of devices/vehicles that can use real-time data streaming.

Last but not least is the logical separation of the 5G network for industry/markets. Unlike today’s 4G network, where you have a single network that is used for applications ranging from those for utilities, telemetry, and metering to watching movies and emailing, all using one single 4G/LTE network. 5G has network separation capability. So, a logical network, which could encompass connected driving features, can be solely dedicated to autonomous driving. This means that only vehicles will be using that particular logical network, and so network performance, business modeling, pricing, etc. can be focused on vehicles’ needs. The latency can also be managed because there is only a specific kind of traffic. Currently, there is a mixed pattern, which makes it difficult for 5G carriers to understand where optimization is required. 5G will enable HD mapping in the cloud and then send that information back—in close to real time— creating a superior user experience.

Better Suited for V2X? V2X is not a technology, there are use cases for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P), Vehicle-to-X (where X can be anything) etc., it depends on what technology we use. Today, when people talk about V2X, what they mean is Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC), also known as IEEE802.11P. 5G comes from the evolution of cellular technologies such as 2G, 3G, 4G and WiFi. Worth considering is the difference between DSRC and 5G cellular technology for vehicle use cases. Both are applicable for V2X, but which one is better suited? From a security and coverage perspective, the two main components of V2X are V2V and V2I. DSRC-based V2V does not require an infrastructure, which means that the beacons are sent out from the vehicle and can detect other vehicles nearby. The same thing can be achieved with 5G Direct and even with 4G LTE Direct. This kind of communication also enables device-to-device (D2D) communication.

5G will have D2D communication capability similar to DSRC V2V communications. From that perspective, DSRC is focused on communication and the security around certificates. This can be used for 5G as well, except that 5G also has security on the radio link level because of the inherent security that comes with USIM (Universal Subscriber Identity Module) or eUICC (embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card) technology. Though we get the advantage of the mobile security, we might still end up having a list of vehicle certificates to be revoked in DSRC or even in 5G, this is above the communication level. Security at the communication level, 5G would provide better security because it is evolving from 3G/4G security and has inherent communication security built in it. DSRC does not have the same level of communication security on its own, so we have to add higher layers of security. But if we think about the certificates, the infrastructure, or the X509 certificates, they can be in both because they are not on the communication level, they are on a higher level of authentication and authorization.

If we look at cybersecurity, which includes silicon to communication to authentication/authorization, 5G is much more well-defined and enables V2V communication in which people have different variations, there is no standard. Looking at coverage that is better suited for different strategies and services, one of the key characteristics of 5G is that for the first time we can have infrastructure-less communication. It is not just about page speeds and low latency. What does that mean? It means that 5G now has the ability to have the mashed technology—it can hop from one vehicle to another vehicle, to create an ad-hoc network of vehicles that communicate among themselves. DSRC also does this to some extent; it does not require infrastructure for V2V, so it creates a network of its own. 5G can offer the same services DSRC offers. With regard to strategy, if we look at it from a WiFi perspective then we are banking on DSRC. If we look at it from a cellular perspective, then we want to extend the cellular capability to enable mesh networks and ad-hoc communication. The cellular V2V approach is newer whereas the DSRC has been around for many years with people doing trials and POCs.

What Matters Cellular V2V and DSRC can complement each other, but they can definitely compete with one other as well. If we use DSRC for V2X, we have to spend billions of dollars to build the infrastructure for V2I. A new infrastructure has to be built, operational expenditure and roadmap with future enhancements that justify the ROI and the ownership of this project, which would probably be taken up by the government. To take advantage of V2I, massive infrastructure investment is required, whereas 5G has the advantage of cellular technology and carriers that are interested to roll out different use cases. In this scenario, the carriers pick up the bill of the infrastructure. The carriers can logically separate out the infrastructure for mobile internet, for smart grids, for connected devices, for autonomous vehicles, and so on. In this way, they can monetize the technology in different ways and the infrastructure remains a shared infrastructure. From this perspective, 5G has an advantage over DSRC because the cell towers and real estate, etc. can all be leveraged and used. The carriers can monetize their investment not only from one vertical but from many different vertical use cases: industrial, retail, end user, connected car, automated drive, utility, etc. That bigger pool of verticals increases the chance of having a favorable ROI. With that in mind, 5G is better suited. What we’ve learned from DSRC V2V and V2I use cases can be leveraged for 5G, as it is just the underlying technology. It does not really matter whether you use 5G or DSRC, what really matters is how we use the application built on top.

Ready to Go Nationwide 5G infrastructure is ready to go nationwide because of the business case note earlier. The business case for the carriers is well proven and they are looking to have 5G rolled out not only because of the capacity increase, but for the first time they would have the ability to monetize and provide dedicated networks for vertical industries and charge differently, which they could not do before with broadband internet services. Carriers are definitely ready. But DSRC is absolutely not. No country has billions of dollars to roll out this dedicated infrastructure only for vehicle safety. Another thing to understand is the silicon that has to go into the vehicle. The advantage that 5G has is that silicon is produced at a massive scale for smartphones. So, the cost of them building that silicon and the robustness that they have from the 3G/4G network, used by billions of people, are still upon unproven grounds in DSRC. DSRC lacks a use case even the size of a hundred thousand people. There are a lot of new challenges that will appear for DSRC because of the inherent security of cellular technology of 3G/4G that it does not have. Of course, 5G will have its own challenges but they will pale in comparison to those that the DSRC will have. The cellular approach to V2I will extend to V2V as well because every car needs connectivity. It will also be applicable to V2P, where the beacon will be released from the person and the car will detect it in order to avoid accidents. The best part of cellular technology is its broad applicability of it—in smartphones, in cars, in hand-held devices. The applicability is so broad that you can truly have a V2X rather than only V2V or V2I. This can be further extended to device-to-device, where bicycles and motorcycles will be able to avoid fatal accidents. The massive volume of smartphone production is going to drive down costs faster than any other technology.

Conclusion The window for DSRC to be implemented and to become successful is only becoming smaller and smaller. As 5G comes in, and DSRC does not have that kind of volume, it is not mandated and is not in the car, they are losing that advantage. Once 5G comes into the towers and cell phones, then it is going to be much more difficult to introduce a new technology and get investment only for vehicles.

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