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In the last century, the automotive sector has evolved massively, from the Model T developed by Henry Ford to today’s suave-looking, super-fast, 5-star safe cars, and this has transformed our lives as we know it. In addition, developments in electronics, communications technology and cloud have been well-adopted by the auto industry, adding comfort and excitement to the plethora of features packed into automobiles.

And now, with the advent of 5G, the auto industry is about to change in a significant way. It is on the precipice of a fundamental change — a change in how we drive and use vehicles. Curious to know more about how the car you drive is about to evolve? Read on.

5G is set to transform the communications industry. Still, it is also poised to impact many aspects of our lives. For example, Human-to-human, machine-to-human, and machine-to-machine communications are set to get a more robust backbone. Additionally, 5G will open up opportunities for IoTized applications. Finally, although the “smart vehicles” concept has been around for some time now, 5G will prove to be the wind beneath its wings.

Thinking about smart vehicles, how they work and how 5G or MEC will accelerate the development of smart vehicles? GS Lab has been working in this area for 3+ years now and we may have some answers and insights for you.

Decoding 5G

You have heard about 2G, 3G, and 4G. But, as the name suggests, 5G is the fifth-generation standard technology for broadband cellular networks with the potential to provide greater speed (bandwidth) and lower latency. Simply put, 5G enables you to play high-resolution videos and multiplayer games, even on cellular networks.

Imagine the speed and ease of it all!

Understanding MEC

When you use an application, the data goes to the cloud, where computation and decision-making happen. Multi-Access Edge Computing brings this computation and services to the edge of the network. As it resides at the nodes close to you, you experience low latency and faster responses because of localized computation and decision-making.

The Evolution of Smart Vehicles

Phase 1: Mechanical systems

Vehicles were primarily mechanical systems, to begin with. Therefore, a lot of research went into developing the engines, powertrains, vehicle dynamics, crash, and safety mechanisms, et al. Engineers were keen on improvements and optimization of the mechanical systems.

Phase 2: Smartness through mechatronics

With the dawn of mechatronics, vehicles became smarter. Now, the word “smart” refers to the ability of vehicles to make the right decisions under strenuous circumstances. Sensors on cars and the central electronic control unit (ECU) were now self-sufficient and capable of making decisions independently. This smartness was mainly associated with safety decisions — sensors could sense tyres slipping, and anti-lock braking (ABS) or electronic braking systems (EBS) were activated to minimize accidents. Vehicles could sense pedestrians and others entering unsafe zones and alert the driver. Sensors and mechatronics were used for parallel parking assists.

Phase 3: Communications-enabled vehicles

In time, communications technology was introduced to the automotive sector. This ushered in unprecedented and innovative changes. Control rooms were auto-informed in case of accidents, and location tracking ensured rescue teams could be sent to the exact location. Vehicles were now “connected.”

However, it is important to note that decisions were mostly limited to the vehicle itself. Thus, it would still be some time before they became vehicles of the future.

Phase 4: Connected vehicles, the future

Smart vehicles should communicate with the smart infrastructure around them like smart parking systems, smart traffic signals, traffic controller rooms, and more. Additionally, it needs to connect and communicate with other smart vehicles.

Current modes of connected vehicles: DSRC vs. C-V2X 

DSRC (Direct Short Range Communication) is compliant with IEEE 80211p and based on wifi-based technology to communicate with other vehicles and surrounding infrastructure. This operates in the 5.9 GHz band, providing direct and low latency up to 40ms.

C-V2X (Cellular vehicles to everything) is based on telecom LTE/5G sim, designed to offer vehicles low-latency vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-roadside infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) communication. It reduces congestion and pollution by connecting individual vehicles and enabling cooperative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS). This platform can transform information and safety services on highways and in cities to enhance faster, frictionless and safer travel.

When choosing between DSRC and C-V2X, the latter seems to be more promising as it uses new technologies like 5G and MEC. On the other hand, DSRC is based on somewhat unreliable conventional Wi-Fi technology 802.11p available since 1999.

Deciphering the role of 5G and MEC

5G and MEC can support approximately 1 million devices in 1 sq. kilometer, have mobility up to 500km/h, and ultra-reliable communication.

Now, the speed at which humans react is a bit above 200 milliseconds. This reaction time may sound small but can still lead to accidents. On the other hand, 5G and MEC provide an ultra-low latency of 1 to 5 milliseconds. This latency is practically real-time, which can be used to provide the user with additional safety information before it is visible and can reduce accidents.

Collaborative development in the industry

Vehicle manufacturers, telecom companies, and the government are collaborating to provide better, faster, safer vehicles for the end-consumer. Simultaneously, the 3GPP standard is evolving to cater to vehicle communication use cases. Check out the infographic below to know more.

The Standardized MEC Deployment Architecture

Using our intricate subject matter expertise, we are proposing the following reference architecture. Our architecture has three MEC components depicted in blue boxes.

The component edge node resides closer to the end-user. We can place our processing system in that node and one of the 5G components named UPF. This hack can deliver ultra-low latency.

The edge controller manages the multiple-edge node.

The edge orchestrator can reside in the cloud and collect the data from vehicles like vehicle speed, fuel information, vehicle position, gear information, tire pressure, and even the driver’s stress level, pulse rate, and other health-related data. It can then process or analyze this data, send the information to the Edge app (in our case, the V2X server), which resides on the edge node, and take the desired action for that vehicle.

Analyzing the C-V2X Use Cases

Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V)

V2V allows one vehicle to communicate with others directly via a new radio link like PC5. With this established connection, the vehicles are capable of making the right decision in the following use cases:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Blindspot warning
  • “Do not change lane” warning
  • Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control (CACC)
  • Queue Warning (QW)
  • Intersection Collision Warning (ICW)
Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I)

V2I communication refers to shared information between vehicles and roadside units (RSU) like traffic signals, parking spots, and road signal boards. The roadside infrastructure dynamically manages the traffic in real-time by sending information or commands to the vehicles or by receiving relevant sensor data from them so that they can function independently in the following use cases:

  • Dynamic traffic light signal cycles
  • Traffic light status request
  • Crossing priority for emergency vehicles
  • Numeric signal cycle indicator for pedestrians
  • Simplified crossing for handicapped pedestrians
  • Road toll collection
  • Augmented reality advertisement
  • Efficient parking
Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P)

V2P communication occurs between vehicles and vulnerable road users such as bicyclists, pedestrians, and people in wheelchairs, whose mobility is restricted. Vehicles will get messages like “Vulnerable road users ahead,” making it extremely useful in cases like low-visibility conditions such as fog, nighttime, and heavy rain.

Vehicle to Network (V2N)

V2N communication is responsible for broadcasting global information to all cars or streaming data to applications with high bandwidth demand. Simply put, V2N means the non-real-time capable connection between a vehicle and the Internet or cloud computing services with the following use cases:

  • Vulnerable road conditions
  • Traffic congestion alerts
  • Weather reports
  • Infotainment

The Future looks Auto-awesome

5G and MEC are about to transform the automotive industry like never before. Vehicles will be safer and drives would be seamlessly convenient from routing, smooth traffic to easy parking. With GS Lab’s expertise in telecom core/4G/5G, we are beyond excited. With our edge in MEC and a proven track record in application development, we are confidently prepared for a rollercoaster ride ahead.

Blog Credits: Pushp Raj and Aman Thakral
Amit Wankhede | Associate Architect

Amit Wankhede is an Associate Architect at GS Lab and has an experience of more than 15 years in IT. Apart from leading research in 5G, he also spearheads GS Lab’s contribution at ONF. After working in areas like deployment automation, DevOps, micro services architecture and cloud services, Amit is now working in the telecom domain since the past 2 years.

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