An estimated 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year and a further 20-50 million are injured or disabled. This makes road traffic accidents the ninth leading cause of death globally.
Researchers from the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) are hoping that using the 5G network to provide local safety services could help improve road safety; particularly in a future in which driverless and traditional cars mingle on the roads.
Current road-safety services suffer from delays in data exchange. However, researchers hope that harnessing cloud-computing technologies, as well as the next-generation 5G mobile network, could help them solve these issues.
“5G will form the cornerstone of interaction between robot cars, for example,” said Dr Tiia Ojanperä, a VTT project manager. “Contemporary driver support systems are mainly vision-based, relying on signals generated by the vehicle’s sensors. 5G and short-range radios will also bring the power of speech and hearing the vehicles, taking their capabilities to a new level.”
The system would be based on sensor and video data collected from vehicles on the roads. Live data would also be exchanged between passing, connected vehicles. This enormous amount of information will be used to formulate real-time weather and traffic warnings for the local area.
The entire system would be automated, requiring no action from the driver to send data or receive warnings.
The VTT researchers hope that the system could help road users and road operators, as well as being compatible with driverless car control systems. The use of data on local weather conditions could also enhance the situational awareness of autonomous vehicles, improving their safety in harsh weather conditions.
The project is due to conclude in 2018 and the researchers have been collaborating with industry partners throughout the process with a view to commercialising the system.
The 5G mobile network is expected to be rolled out over the next three to five years. The network must be faster and more reliable than the current 4G network in order to cope with the expansion of connected devices and ever-increasing data traffic.
Scientists at Aalborg University, Denmark, are working to reconceptualise mobile base stations for 5G. While current mobile base stations may have a maximum of eight antennae, the research team is working on a new base station unit that could have several hundred antennae, making it possible for devices to connect with the unit.
“We don’t know exactly what it is going to look like in the end,” said Professor Elisabeth De Carvalho. “Maybe it could be a wall of a building that is covered in antennas on the outside – or on the inside. We are still uncertain about that.”
The researchers compare their new design to a collection of fine, concentrated water hoses aimed directly where you want them, rather than a large, leaky and undirected fire hose. They hope that incorporating hundreds of antennae into the 5G station design would increase data transmission to cope with rapidly increasing demand.