The car of the future

Connectivity as a critical enabler for connected cars and autonomous driving

From connected cars to automated vehicles: a road for cross sector cooperation

Smart driving and policy making

Connectivity as a critical enabler for connected cars and autonomous driving

The digital revolution is transforming our driving experience. Increasingly, modern cars offer enhanced services and abilities. As all of these require good connectivity along the entire journey, continuous network capabilities’ improvements have made it possible to extend the digital experience almost everywhere. Yet, pushing automated driving challenges even further raise several questions regarding needed infrastructure investments and so, about possible convergences in a context of diversified if not scattered projects and standards.

Automotive developed along different wireless technologies but should shape more actively the future connectivity they need

Among the various functionalities that have been developed in the realm of connected cars, each use has taken advantage of different connectivity technologies.

  • Some services developed using non-cellular connectivity:
    • Short-Range Devices (SRD) for Remote Keyless Entry/Ignition, Tire Pressure Monitoring.
    • Radars (77.5-78 GHz) for anti-collision radars.
    • C-ITS (5.875-5.905 GHz) for applications that require vehicle-to-vehicle and/or vehicle to infrastructure communications.
  • In some cases - communication with traffic lights, hazard warning or inspection and maintenance of cars - current cellular solutions (2G/3G or LTE) will meet the needs of these services even though commercial discussions between industries have not converged yet.

Yet, other envisaged cases - like fully-automated driving using high-density ‘platooning’; see-through features (sensor sharing); or infotainment - will require ultra-reliable and low-latency connectivity,  with features and standards still needs to be invented. To catalyze and accelerate such developments, it would help to have future automotive needs embarked as early as possible, when technologies are still in design phases.

The case of mobile networks, which bring specific advantages to automotive connectivity

The automotive industry dedicates much effort to increasingly leverage ICT-based capabilities in their car design and there is already a lot of work going on, based on different technologies, from wireless to cellular technologies.

In the latter case, regardless of which technology (2G/3G/4G or 5G) is the most suitable for mobility needs, cellular networks have the distinct advantages of being nearly ubiquitous and equipped with proven security and resilience capabilities in spite of intense cyberattacks. This is particularly important as safety is of paramount importance to the automotive industry, which is subject to stringent regulations around the world.

The next mobile technology evolution, 5G, shows particular promise in terms of performance giving a push toward further innovative services for connected cars and automated driving. It will be particularly helpful for vehicle occupants as autonomous technologies increasingly allow the car to become an environment in which drivers and passengers can use their time in transit to use novel forms of media and interactive services.

For this promise to be delivered, 5G – which is still in standardization phase – will need further development when it comes to security and the scalability of costs and operations. In particular, while connected cars and autonomous driving is often associated with performance and latency issues, one should not overlook issues related to power and battery management.

Preparing for the future will require more coordination and convergence

While the car industry might be frustrated in its waiting for the right technology to become a reality, the reverse might also be true.

The telecoms operators are fully involved in the development of connected cars and autonomous driving projects. On one hand, this commitment is motivated by the fact that transportation is part of our customers’ lives and the telecoms operators aim to provide them with the services they need. For example, this stand is in line with the Orange strategy: Essentials2020.  On the other hand, connected car also means the creation of new business opportunities. These, however, are challenging as they require major investments in connectivity. The challenge for infrastructure providers will be to support this gradual ramping up of requirements and constraints, and to synchronize investments with advances in autonomous driving. Moreover, with millions of cars on the road, there is also a significant challenge in defining an optimised approach to operating networks for connected and automated cars.

In short

For connected cars to develop and automated vehicles to progress towards higher level of automation, there will be needs for new generations of technologies. Among them 5G brings a promise of enhanced performances and also mutualized capabilities, in a context in which only cellular networks may achieve the required level of coverage, ubiquity and seamlessness.

In accordance to the standardisation roadmap, the first 5G commercial deployments are anticipated around 2020: there still needs time to finalize the standard’s design and achieve the best balance between cost and capabilities to address the wide variety of users’ demands and their high expectations. This time window is also an opportunity for specific needs, such as the ones from the automotive industry, to be embarked in the standard.

Yet, this novel approach to technology anticipation and planning is complex, especially because it requires coordination, involvement and even commitments across different, vertically connected businesses.

As the topic of connected cars and automated driving has increasingly become a priority for the current European Commission over the past few months, this political support will certainly help to push ICT on top of vertical business priorities.