Connected Vehicles Race Toward 5G Future

connected car

As the connected vehicle ecosystem grows, the automobiles that are part of the effort are racing toward their 5G future — the new mobile technology promises to significantly boost payments and commerce for commuters and other drivers in the coming years. But a few roadblocks have to navigated before that happens in full.

The first is just making the technology work well enough to provide reliable support to connected cars and trucks. Mobile network operators have started the hard work of 5G deployments but there is still a ways to go.

A recent example of that came from Verizon, which in April activated its 5G network in Chicago and Minneapolis, two big Midwestern cities that also serve as tech hubs for that region. According to a report from CNBC, early tests of that network didn’t turn out so well, with speeds not at a 5G level yet, along with other problems. That said, “networks take time to build,” the report noted, adding that “4G LTE rolled out over a couple of years and people experienced similar issues when it was new.”

Another potential problem — though one that seems on the path to being solved in favor of 5G — is the push by some organizations to use older Wi-Fi standards for the emerging ecosystem for connected vehicles. The debate has mainly played out in Europe. There, according to a report, the European Parliament recently “voted for the Wi-Fi standard in a plenary session. The European Commission sided with Volkswagen and its WiFi standard, dealing a serious blow to BMW, Qualcomm, and others endorsing 5G technology. Renault, Toyota, NXP, Autotalks, and Kapsch TrafficCom all support WiFi as the standard for connected cars while Daimler, Ford, PSA Group, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Qualcomm, and Samsung have all backed 5G.”

Standards set by Europe are certainly to influence connected vehicle standards in much of the rest of the world — perhaps in the same way that the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is having an impact on other data privacy efforts across the globe, including in the U.S. The stakes for connected vehicles are high, as PYMNTS research has shown. Consumers, after all, already power some $230 billion worth of commerce — and the promised speed and efficiency of 5G mobile technology could make payment and commerce even more attractive to those drivers, and give them more consumer experiences from inside their cars and trucks.

Exactly how 5G will work with connected vehicles is still largely the stuff of informed speculation, but the speed of the network could go a long way to promoting more in-vehicle commerce and payments. “Although self-driving car companies like Waymo and Uber have said little about 5G, and operate their cars without it, many believe 5G is the key to unlocking their vehicles’ potential,” reads one recent analysis of the issue. “There are three stand-out reasons for this — the extra speed of 5G, its ability to connect with many more devices at once, and a far lower latency, meaning data sent between two 5G devices is almost instantaneous.” The latency for 5G is one millisecond, that report said, which compares to about 50 milliseconds for 4G.

Looking forward, 5G also could play a major role in autonomous vehicles, such as, that report added, “in the case of an autonomous car, the time between a sensor recognizing ice on the road, and a cloud-based server being told about the danger.”

Automotive companies are jumping on the 5G bandwagon as connected vehicles start moving into the mainstream. Ford, for instance, plans to “equip its entire lineup with 5G modems within three years in anticipation of an industry standard (which is as yet undecided) for connected-car networks,” reports Car and Driver. It added that “currently, just 30 percent of all new cars even come with an onboard modem, according to Qualcomm. In five years, the company projects three of four vehicles will have modems, the majority of them 5G compliant.”

Connected vehicles are already here even though the ecosystem is still young. One way or another, 5G mobile technology will help fuel the growth of the connected vehicle ecosystem.