The connected-, electric-, and autonomous-vehicle revolution is finally arriving. Sales of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) have boomed as automakers bring long-promised models to market. In fact, Ford is already producing more of the Mustang Mach-E model than its gasoline-powered namesake. These new cars are wired to the hilt, bristling with cameras, Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), and other sensors both inside and out—the latter to scan the road ahead on behalf of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) while on the path to full autonomy.
These systems produce terabytes of data daily that have to be processed fast—faster than a self-driving car at highway speeds—to ensure passengers’ and pedestrians’ safety. Information at this terabyte scale is likely to be overwhelming for the typical onboard computing capability. In addition, existing public wireless networks are too resource constrained to support real-time telemetry back and forth to the cloud for processing.
Enter 5G and mobile edge computing (MEC), which together promise the high-throughput, low-latency, high-reliability connectivity from vehicles to powerful cloud computing services needed to make the world of connected vehicles and autonomous driving a reality. Verizon and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have partnered to combine the former’s 5G network with AWS Wavelength to enable Verizon 5G Edge–powered low-latency applications in 13 cities across the U.S. Together with some of the world’s most innovative auto suppliers, they’re exploring how increasingly connected and autonomous vehicles will communicate with the world and with each other.
SAFE CONNECTIONS AT SPEED
Installing thousands of sensors in each car is one thing; mounting millions more on streetlights, traffic signals, and parking spaces is another order of magnitude. The job of connecting them all will fall to the new 5G networks being rolled out. 5G can support up to a million connected devices per square kilometer. Connectivity platforms such as Cellular Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X) are an example of the unprecedented collaboration between the telecom and automotive industries with a charter to redefine the driving experience. While CV2X cellular technology is technically compatible with 4G LTE, its relatively small uplink radio channel is likely to be too constrained to adequately support these terabyte-level telemetry flows.
While 5G provides the ability to connect millions of devices, there is still the task of crunching the data coming from these millions of devices and deriving actionable insights that can then be sent back to drivers and vehicles. This is where MEC comes in. Having on-demand compute infrastructure available milliseconds away from where data is generated is a game changer. Without this capability, advanced computing capabilities would have to be built into thousands of devices and infrastructure components.
The computing infrastructure on MEC platforms, like Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength, use advanced cloud services such as machine learning inference and image and video analytics to derive insights from the data that is being streamed from thousands of connected end points and use 5G to get it back to the vehicle or driver in near real time.
Harman, an automotive tech company owned by Samsung, is testing one such solution in the San Francisco Bay Area AWS Wavelength Zone on Verizon’s 5G network, where it aims to warn drivers of approaching speed limits, road work, and even impending collisions by analyzing real-time data from other vehicles in the vicinity and relaying an action request back to the vehicle or driver. “Think of a scenario where there’s a vehicle that has applied a harsh brake, and you are somewhere right behind it,” says Ramaswamy Iyer, senior engineering director in the telematics business unit at Harman. “You want that notification to come in so you’re able to make the right call in real time.”
Similarly, Renovo has combined its automotive data platform with Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength to push real-time alerts to the advanced driver assistance systems of vehicles in the vicinity of a crash or near-collision, triggering instant evasive action. Renovo’s software effectively provides drivers with near real-time information, using the low-latency network to warn them of events they might otherwise never see—until it is too late.
The goal of both companies is to create a collective situational awareness map for vehicles, one that is safer and more accurate than any single vehicle could sense and compute on its own.
It’s not just drivers who stand to benefit from increasing autonomy, but nonmotorists, too. Savari, a leader in C-V2X, was acquired by Harman earlier this year. It is leveraging Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength to build applications that will enable vehicles to “see around blind corners and intersections” and “avoid vulnerable road users like pedestrians and bicyclists,” according to Savari CEO Ravi Puvvala. Such features are absolutely critical after an estimated 38,680 Americans died in motor vehicle crashes last year—the deadliest in more than a decade—due largely to driver inattention and recklessness.
As vehicles increasingly assume more tasks of driving, everyone stands to benefit—especially passengers. With multiple screens, power outlets, and other convenience features, vehicles are already becoming an alternative venue for passengers to consume content and be productive while in transit. 5G and MEC promises to transform going from point A to point B into a uniquely immersive media experience. “We won’t stop there,” Iyer promises. “We’ll take the same protocol and extend it to nonsafety use cases—consumer experiences, productivity, streaming. That’s where we see the best value of what we can do.”
Driving hasn’t changed this much in more than a century. Augmenting—and ultimately surpassing—human attention spans not only promises to help save lives, but also unlock the potential for entirely new ways of living, working, and playing. 5G and MEC will be essential in making that a reality.
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