Today, all vehicle manufacturers offer cellular connectivity in their vehicles, either as standard equipment or as an option.
Safety applications for vehicles, such as eCall (the Pan-European system for vehicle emergency calls), are increasing, as is the ability to connect to Internet information and entertainment.
Communication between vehicles, to and from roadside infrastructure is also on the rise.
But what will be the future evolution of transport as 5G is rolled out?
Participants at the ITU/UNECE Symposium on the Future Networked Car which took place on 5 March 2020 at ITU Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, debated this and a range of other issues during four discussion sessions held throughout the day.
Let’s not wait for the technology
Niels Peter Skov Andersen, Chair of the ETSI Technical Committee for Intelligent Transport Systems, participants not to wait for tomorrow, but to use what is available now, to save lives.
“Let’s deploy what technology we have today, and upgrade it later when the new technology comes along,” said Andersen.
“Some services can accommodate 2G, some services require 3G, some 4G and some might require 5G. If we wait, we will be waiting 10–15 years, and we won’t be able to use the technology that we have available,” he said.
Collaboration is key
The importance of collaboration and sharing information was widely echoed by several participants in the discussion.
According to Eduardo Valencia of AMETIC and Director of the #VEHICLES7YFN think tank, the implementation of a future mobility model for Europe that meets sustainability requirements would only be possible if all actors operating in urban or inter-urban ecosystems were to collaborate.
For Remi Bastien of French carmaker, Renault, the key to the success of 5G would be more and more cooperation between different sectors.
For instance, Bastien told participants how Renault has opened cooperation with ICT companies such as telecommunications operator Orange and network provider Ericsson on multi-access edge computing to prepare cooperative collision avoidance to increase road safety.
Bastien is convinced that cooperation between all stakeholders is the only way; between the automotive industry car makers, telcos, infrastructure, edge-computing companies and mobility operators.
Then the question would be how to share the value. “That will be the challenge,” he said.
Andersen said: “We need collaboration to ensure that the car understands the road and the car knows what the road sends to us,” adding that ETSI has really been trying to work with other standards organizations on how to enable deployment of services.
Moderator T. Russell Shields, CEO and President of RoadDB LLC, referred to PIARC, the World Road Association, as critically important in the activities of intelligent transport systems and encouraged the technology world to become involved.
Much hot air going around automated vehicles
David Wong, Senior Technology and Innovation Manager, SMMT (the UK automotive industry body) highlighted some key issues from a UK perspective, warning that “we are all due a reality check,” when it comes to automated vehicles.
According to Wong, the UK market has increasing availability of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and of the 2.5 million passenger cars registered in 2018, 75 per cent already had auto emergency braking (AEB) available. But “when it comes to automated vehicles, there is hot air going around,” he said, “and people think that level 5 automation is going to be on our roads very soon.”
Wong was reluctant to say that automated vehicles will be on the roads in the next decade, citing level 3 (conditional automation), as currently what is nearest to market.
Roads need mobile network coverage
Wong is confident that the UK has got huge potential to play a leading role in long-range (rather than short range) connected-vehicle services deployment, “but that the barrier to connectivity is coverage,” adding that “mobile network coverage on the UK road network remains wanting.”
Wong expects that in 2026, all new passenger cars in the UK market will be connected, though “whether people use them [the connected services] and to what extent is a completely separate question,” he said.
Bastien is sure that connected vehicles can improve smart mobility significantly, but agreed with Wong that there is indeed a need for more network coverage: “If we consider safety — more than 80 per cent of fatalities occur on country roads where the coverage is not perfect,” he said.
For Bastien, the connection to infrastructure and reasonable operational design domain (ODD) are the key conditions for automated driving. “How to define the right ODD that offers safe enough and valuable services is the biggest question,” he said.
5G greeted by a 2G switch off
According to Wong the potential use case for 5G is very much acknowledged and he thinks it has a role in automated driving. “In terms of automated driving, real-time refresh will be a critical use case for 5G,” he said, though this will be greeted by the potential 2G/3G switch-off in the UK.
He highlighted concerns with the 2G switch-off bearing in mind that legislation currently serves the 2G model. “Any next-generation development will have to coincide with the sunsetting of the 2G,” he said.
For example, legislation requiring that electric-vehicle charging be conducted via smart metering, will pose a problem as this is currently based on a 2G module. Hence, 85 per cent of all households in the UK will need their modules for their smart meters replaced with a long-term evolution (LTE) compatible module.
Despite these concerns, Wong said that stakeholder discussions were taking place. It was explained to participants during the discussion that in the United States much of 2G has been turned off, and while some of the earlier vehicles with 2G-only capability received voluntary upgrades by car companies, they were the ones still subscribed to the telematic service.
So it seems a satisfactory answer has not yet been found with the issue of 2G switch-off.
What makes 5G different?
Remi Bastien of Renault highlighted what makes 5G different.
“For the network, we could enjoy network slicing, meaning that with 5G we could have a dedicated network for smartphones, for automotive, for IoT, and this could be precious to distinguish the different customers,” he said.
Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) can offer new business models that car makers can leverage.
Multi-access edge computing (MEV), would also be important, Bastien said. “We could have very efficient and very low-latency real-time performance between the vehicle and the infrastructure — and this could be a strong enabler for automated functions.”
Roger Lanctot, Director of Automotive Connected Mobility for Strategy Analytics, pointed out that 5G connectivity cellular solutions would mean not having to pay a subscription for connected services.
Complex issues to solve
The discussion continued with views expressed on a number of unresolved issues such as how to manage software updates with new cars being sold with the prospective of them never going back to the manufacturers; or how to manage connectivity in cars that are older and already on the road. Also, the shorter information and communication technology (ICT) product development lifecycles still need to be reconciled with the longer automotive product development lifecycle.
Towards the end of the session, moderator Shields said: “These are really complex questions which require the interaction between road authorities and vehicle manufacturers to move forward.”
At the closing of this inspiring event, Chaesub Lee, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, said that he could see more and more collaboration between the automotive and ICT sectors, and thanked the sponsors DEKRA, Qualcomm and RoadDB for their kind support.
Ref: No.1 2020 ITU News Magazine