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5 things to know about 5G if you work in the auto industry

It’s no longer enough to deliver just a car. Nowadays, consumers want their cars connected. From maintenance and safety alerts to third-party services such as parking and car sharing, the possibilities of connected consumer vehicles are wide—and maybe a bit overwhelming. How can all these needs and wants be met at the same time?

That’s where 5G comes in

1. 5G is fast. Like really fast.

Let’s start with the simple facts first: from a peak speed perspective, 5G is 100 times faster than 4G. This means that during the time it took to download just one piece of data with 4G the same could have been downloaded 100 times over a 5G network. You can just imagine how this speed is important for a connected car when it comes to the amount of data that will need to be shared.

According to Dr. Joy Laskar, CTO of Maja Systems, future autonomous cars will generate nearly 2 petabits of data, which is equivalent of 2 million gigabits. “With an advanced Wi-Fi connection, it will take 230 days to transfer a week-worth of data from a self-driving car,” Laskar said.

With 5G, that time would go from 230 days to just over 2 days.

2. Lower latency

5G also means low latency, as in a matter of milliseconds.

Latency is the amount of time it takes to send information from one point to another. We encounter it everyday when we drive, and make a decision to break suddenly: latency is the amount of time between our brain sends the instruction to our foot to push down on the brake in this example. When it comes to networks, we usually talk about the difference between the 20 milliseconds of our current 4G networks to the 1-5 milliseconds of the 5G network.

However, there’s even a larger difference when it comes to self-driving cars.

Human reaction speed is a bit above 200 milliseconds, leading to accidents every day. 5G’s 5 millisecond reaction is practically real-time, which would lead to increased safety and efficient decision making as cars would be able to practically instantaneously send data between one another and communicate with traffic lights, road sensors and more.

3. 5G’s increased reliability

Most people have had this experience of being on a phone call and hearing “Oh, I think I’m about to lose you—I’m entering a dead zone.”

While dead zones—areas where there are no mobile connection—are a pain for telephone conversations, they would be a catastrophe for connected cars, especially self-driving cars.

This would be addressed V2X communications, which stands for vehicle to everything and would be powered by 5G.

V2X communications, intended to bring direct communications between cars and other smart objects, can send messages twice as far and twice as fast as the older protocol, due to the improved codecs and error correction.

Currently, networks and direct communication systems lack the capacity to manage data traffic from fleets of autonomous cars communicating with one another in real time in dense urban environments or along crowded highways. However, the advanced features of 5G will allow cars to communicate with each other directly, meaning a signal doesn’t need to first travel to a cellular tower, allowing vehicles to quickly send and receive information.

4. Exciting new case stories & innovation

Thanks to these three elements—increased speed, lower latency, and increased reliability—a whole new generation of exciting use cases can be unlocked.

In Europe, the 5GCAR project, led by Ericsson, is helping to develop an overall 5G system architecture. As part of their work, they identified a number of new use cases that need 5G to unlock the future of transportation, from lane merge coordination to long range sensor sharing and increased protection for pedestrians. 

5. Industry 4.0

5G won’t just make connecting cars easier: it will make manufacturing cars easier as well.

5G is about to change manufacturing as we know it through secure and almost real-time connectivity that will result in transformative productivity, speed and efficiency improvements. The car industry will be among the first to benefit.

But don’t just take our word for it: ask Mercedes-Benz. We recently teamed up with Telefónica Germany to enable 5G car production via a private 5G network for Mercedes-Benz at the company’s Sindelfingen plant in southern Germany.

Jörg Burzer, Member of the Divisional Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain, said: "With the installation of a local 5G network, the networking of all production systems and machines in the Mercedes-Benz Cars factories will become even smarter and more efficient in the future. This opens up completely new production opportunities.”

So why should you care about 5G? Well, 5G connectivity has the potential to allow accident-free, stress-free and emission-free driving…and we think that’s a future we can all be excited about.