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5G: The Future of Self-Driving Vehicles

ADB has been hard at work with some of our nation’s largest wireless providers to help bring the groundbreaking 5G network to communities across the country. 5G is on its way and it is going to change the way we use and understand technology forever. One important example of this change is how 5G is going to impact the way we drive – specifically with the introduction of self-driving vehicles.

What is a Self-Driving Vehicle?

According to the UCSUSA, a self-driving vehicle is defined as:

“…Cars or trucks in which human drivers are never required to take control to safely operate the vehicle. Also known as autonomous and ‘driverless’ cars, they combine sensors and software to control, navigate, and drive the vehicle.”

There are currently no fully autonomous vehicles on the roads, but many companies, such as Tesla, have begun testing in major cities. This testing along with the implementation and adoption of 5G will give way for self-driving vehicles to appear on the roads much sooner. 5G will also improve the development of self-driving vehicles, allowing them to be faster, smarter, and safer. However, various self-driving vehicles have different levels of autonomous capabilities. These levels are described by researchers and developers using a 0-5 scale:

  • Level 0 – All major systems are controlled by humans

  • Level 1 – Certain systems, such as cruise control or automatic braking, may be controlled by the car, one at a time

  • Level 2 – The vehicle offers at least two simultaneous automated functions, such as acceleration and steering, but requires humans for safe operations

  • Level 3 – The vehicle can manage all safety-critical functions under certain conditions, but the driver is expected to take over when alerted

  • Level 4 – The vehicle is fully-autonomous in some driving scenarios, though not all

  • Level 5 – The vehicle is completely capable of self-driving in every situation

How Will 5G Impact Self-Driving Vehicles?

5G wireless technology is going to change our world as we know it, connecting everything around us with an exceptionally fast, reliable, and responsive network. So, how will this improved network help self-driving vehicles? Self-driving vehicles use hundreds of sensors to connect to the network, making them faster and smarter. The software systems installed in these vehicles require data processing capabilities and speeds that can mimic the timing of human reflexes. There are tens of thousands of deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents every year and these ultra-fast speeds, combined with the low latency that 5G will bring, will allow for self-driving vehicles to be safer than a vehicle that is fully controlled by a human. MachineDesign has done extensive research on the impact self-driving vehicles will have on our lives. Click here to read more.

You might be thinking how can a driverless car be safer? This is where autopilot and remote pilot features come in. There are many unexpected scenarios that may arise while driving which require human control. Self-driving vehicles with autopilot capabilities can use sensors and software to detect these hazards and relinquish control to the driver. Self-driving vehicles have the potential to bring a sense of independence back to individuals who cannot drive themselves. However, these autopilot features may not be feasible for elderly or disabled drivers. Remote pilots, trained drivers who are miles away sitting in a simulator, would then step in and take over control. This would be an incredible breakthrough, but one that is only possible by the groundbreaking network provided by 5G.

5G will allow for new methods of communication when it comes to transportation. Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication connects cars to each other in order to share data about routes and speed. Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communication, in turn, connects cars to surrounding smart technology. Allowing wider communication capabilities, cars will be able to connect and communicate with parking meters, parking garages, and possibly streetlights, which would shut off if no drivers are on a road.

This would not only change the way that cars are built and the way that drivers have to think, but it would also transform our public infrastructure. Click here to learn more.

While we won’t see self-driving vehicles on the roads tomorrow, it is exciting to see the possibilities that they will bring to our communities. 5G is a game-changer for technology and we are so proud to be a part of it! Click here to read our previous post the incredible impact of 5G.

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