The road to 5G

07 Mar 2017
00:00

5G future for auto industry

Just over a decade ago, the most sophisticated piece of communications equipment in cars was the radio.

Today, the automotive industry is one of the hottest points of intersection between telecoms vendors, IT companies, operators and old world car makers, with Ford - one of the oldest - saying it is in transformation to a “technology company.”

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In September last year, the cross-industry 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) was formed by players in the telecommunications and automotive sectors.

The idea is that it will be a co-operative forum to develop, test and promote communications solutions, support standardization and accelerate commercial applications.

There are also applications which span transport and logistics. Truck maker Scania is using 5G mobile technology in its driverless systems, such as an upcoming Singapore trial of “autonomous truck platooning,” where one truck leads three autonomous trucks to fully automate the docking and unloading of cargo.

5GAA membership includes some of the big names in both sectors, such as Daimler, BMW, ZTE, China Mobile, and Denso. Major chipmakers Intel and Qualcomm, both members of the 5GAA, have launched 5G chips with automotive applications in mind.

With the development of autonomous vehicles, the car of the future will be a complete ecosystem for the smart Internet of Vehicles.

As BMW has said, 5G networks are essential for making driverless cars function effectively, because they will need to transmit data constantly to the cloud and communicate with other vehicles and landmarks along the route.

Smart Cities will need Smart Vehicles as their mode of transport, and 5G will deliver a world of connectivity for security, control and information needs.

There are risks, however, and security is a key issue.

This is why cyber security vendor Gemalto, which sees itself as a major player in 5G networks, is also a 5GAA member. Gemalto’s slogan “Security to be Free” could have been designed exclusively with the auto industry in mind.

Already, major car makers experimenting with advanced communication have had issues with cyberattacks.

A Chrysler Jeep was hacked in 2015, when attackers used the car’s connected radio to gain access to the vehicle’s main functions.

For this reason, some vendors are going in another direction.

Waymo, which provides driverless technology to Google’s self-driving car project and is working on trials with Fiat Chrysler, says cars using its system will remain offline from the internet for the majority of time to protect them from hacks. In Wymo cars, there is no continuous connection to the cloud and - in the words of Waymo chief John Krafcik - the vehicles “communicate with the outside world only when they need to.”

This is a direct contrast to the approach of the 5GAA, which is embracing connectivity and 5G technologies as the way forward for the industry.

Some technology companies, such as Blackberry, are staking their entire future on the auto industry. The Canadian company, which has received $100 million from the Canadian Government, announced in December 2016 that its 400 workers in Ottawa would refocus specifically on software for autonomous vehicles.

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