Connectivity has revolutionized the way we work and play, but there is still a lot more to explore. One area that is yet to truly take off is the connected and autonomous vehicle segment.
This is not to say digital hasn't impacted the automotive industry already. It certainly has, but has 5G?
Network slicing is a new feature of 5G Standalone, the fully upgraded 5G network.
The simplest explanation is it allows companies to create separate and isolated virtual networks for different use cases. Each slice is configured independently, and because they are isolated, the performance on one won't impact another.
This is important for 5G, especially in use cases that require ultra-low latency (the time in which it takes the network to respond to commands or events) for performance or safety. Research suggests more than 25 percent of 5G use cases will require network slicing.
The connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) segment is one.
The 4G network was installed to meet consumer demand, after the mass adoption of smartphones and more data rich applications meant a new type of network from 3G.
But 5G is slightly different.
The last few years has seen the rise of the Internet of Things, hundreds of millions of different devices that are connected to the network. This presents two challenges.
That many devices and applications present a risk of network congestion, potentially impacting the performance of those devices and applications themselves.
New devices and applications require specific connectivity requirements.
Building a network
Entertainment is where many CAVs have focused, such as high-resolution video and music streaming, as well as WiFi hotspots. Because these are not mission or safety critical, they can rely on the public network.
However, some of the most beneficial elements of CAVs are safety orientated. For example, vehicle condition alerts, real-time traffic alerts, driver fatigue detection and autonomous vehicle reaction to external hazards.
These features require a specialized network configuration, such as ultra-low latency and Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) technology to bring the cloud closer to the end-user.
To explain this idea, consider the stopping distance of a car.
Large UK insurance company Automotive Association (AA) assumes it would take 0.7 seconds for most people to react to an obstacle appearing on the road. With ultra-low latency, a CAV could react in less than 10 milliseconds.
That might not sound revolutionary, the difference between the AA assumption and an ultra-low latency CAV is 690 milliseconds, which is a long time when traveling at 30 mph (about 50 kph). The world might not be ready for driverless vehicles yet, but this could be incorporated as a safety feature on cars.
Without the configurability and isolation benefits of network slicing, this would not be possible.
A vehicle for innovation
For network slicing to become a reality, regulators will have to provide greater clarity on how it will reform net neutrality. And for this to happen, it helps to identify how network slicing can be a catalyst for innovation.
Separating the connectivity that powers CAVs from more general use cases (such as smartphones), provides a solution to two challenges:
Network congestion: With two virtual networks that cannot impact each other, you can ensure mission- and safety-critical features are not impacted by general mobile internet usage.
Different connectivity requirements: A CAV requires ultra-low latency, which means the network would respond within 10 milliseconds. This is faster than the brain processes information and not feasible today. Through network slicing, specific network characteristics can be applied.
Making the solution a reality
A homogenous network experience can be a barrier to innovation, but there is a solution.
Network slicing is a new capability that can be deliver through 5G Standalone, but only when the industry has the right support.
This is where policy and regulation can act as a catalyst for innovation. Rules need to be fit for purpose to support the market. Here is a clear example of where technology can help create a safer society.