Many experts throughout the mobile and auto industries discuss how self-driving vehicles are just one of the incredible technologies that will be unlocked by 5G, which led some in the press to believe that autonomous cars will become a reality only when 5G data networks are fully operational and ubiquitous.
It is true that 5G network communication will redefine automotive by offering multi-gigabit speeds for immersive user experiences, as well as new infotainment, telematics and teleoperation use cases. However, the evolution to 5G New Radio (5G NR) doesn't stop there. In addition to 5G network communication, 5G will also define a direct communication mode that will allow cars to communicate with each other directly for autonomous driving use cases. This mode of operation can operate without dependency or reliance on wide area network coverage.
How would that be possible?
The answer lies in Release 16 5G NR-based C-V2X (Cellular Vehicle to Everything) technology, which will bring about new direct communication capabilities, such as high throughput and ultra-reliable low latency communication (URLLC), for advanced autonomous driving use cases, while maintaining backward compatibility to Release 14 C-V2X.
Rel-14 C-V2X is designed for low-latency direct communications for automotive safety, allowing vehicles to communicate directly with each other (Vehicle-to-Vehicle or V2V), to pedestrians (Vehicle-to-Pedestrian or V2P), and to roadway infrastructure (Vehicle-to-Infrastructure or V2I) without relying on network coverage or a cellular subscription. Rel-14 C-V2X continues to gain ecosystem support and is expected to become an important technology for automotive safety. Today, Qualcomm Technologies is conducting C-V2X field trials with global automotive ecosystem leaders and preparing for Rel-14 C-V2X commercial deployment in vehicles starting as early as 2019.
In parallel, we are also leading the way to define the evolution of C-V2X technology for autonomous driving use cases, based on 5G NR in 3GPP Release 16. Just as Rel-14 C-V2X direct communication does not rely on cellular networks, its evolution to Rel-16 5G NR-based C-V2X direct communication can also operate without dependency or reliance on network coverage.
Autonomous vehicles rely on several different kinds of sensors to be able to detect and infer their surroundings and road conditions. While sensors such as radar, and camera systems are essential, these sensors are limited by their line-of-sight (LOS) operation. Rel-14 C-V2X direct communication complements the capabilities of these sensors by providing 360-degree non-LOS (NLOS) awareness, extending a vehicle's ability to detect farther down the road -- even at blind intersections or in poor weather conditions.
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— Durga Malladi, Vice President, Engineering, Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)
This column is sponsored by Qualcomm.