Several tech vendors are partnering with three automakers to create an association that is aimed at accelerating the development of 5G technologies for self-driving cars.
The companies on Sept. 27 announced the 5G Automotive Association, which will work to develop, test and promote technologies that will form the basis of the next-generation infrastructure that will be needed to make autonomous vehicles a reality. Networking vendors Ericsson, Huawei Technologies and Nokia and chip makers Intel and Qualcomm are being joined by automakers Audi, BMW and Daimler in the initiative, which officials with the companies said is an example of the need for partnerships to speed the development of the necessary technologies.
"The success of 5G is dependent on cross-industry work in new ecosystems to digitalize industries," Ericsson CTO Ulf Ewaldsson said in a statement. "With the creation of this association, we will leverage our latest technology, 5G, and work closely together with the car industry to jointly develop solutions as well as provide input to regulation, certification and standardization."
Li Yintao, president of Huawei's 2012 Labs, said in a statement that the association "demonstrates the clear need for a cross-sector collaboration between the mobile industry and car industry for joint innovation, and to establish a platform to align on timeline and priorities and solution roadmaps."
The group will be able to drive everything from worldwide regulations and certification to standardization efforts for autonomous cars and 5G technologies, he said.
The burgeoning self-driving car market is getting a lot of attention from many corners. Tech vendors and component makers are rapidly building up their portfolios of products aimed at the space, and companies from Google and to Uber are running tests with such vehicles. Car manufacturers are teaming with tech companies—as illustrated by the partnership between BMW, Intel and Mobileye to get autonomous vehicles on the road by 2021—to drive their efforts.
In addition, governments also are pushing efforts. The Obama administration in January unveiled plans to spend almost $4 billion over 10 years to fund pilot projects in hopes of accelerating autonomous car efforts in the United States.
5G is seen as a key enabling technology. Though standards for the next-generation connectivity technology aren't expected to be finalized until 2020, tech companies are rolling out pre-standard 5G technologies and products. 5G promises data transfer speeds that will be 10 to 100 times faster than current 4G LTE, as well as significantly lower latency and the ability to support many more devices and systems.
All this will be important for the car-to-car and car-to-cloud communications (or V2X—vehicle-to-everything) that will be crucial in enabling vehicles to operate without human intervention. The vehicles will need to communicate with each other as well as other intelligent environments—such as smart cities—to navigate from one point to another and to avoid obstacles from other cars to pedestrians.
"We expect 5G to become the worldwide dominating mobile communications standard of the next decade," Christoph Grote, senior vice president of electronics for BMW, said in a statement. "For the automotive industry it is essential that 5G fulfills the challenges of the era of digitalization and autonomous driving."
The new association will address technical and regulatory issues, and will look at such tasks as defining and meshing use cases, technical requirements and implementation strategies as well as giving support to standardization and regulatory groups, officials said. Members also will address a range of V2X technologies, from wireless connectivity to security, privacy and distributed cloud architectures.
They also will jointly run development projects that lead to the creation of integrated offerings, interoperability testing, and large-scale pilots and trials.
Group members said the association is open to other companies joining.