Vodafone shows that 5G makes cars and mobility smarter and safer. Now we need a unique and shared ecosystem


Finally 5G comes out of the Telco Powerpoint presentations and goes on the track. In the true sense of the word, as happened with the ACI circuit in Arese, near Milan, at the hands of Vodafone, which demonstrated its four "smart mobility" pilot projects based on 5G. A real demonstration, with real and working systems and not just prototypes or simulators, which worked perfectly despite the decidedly inclement weather that could suggest potential radio signal quality problems.

The 5G in the car: what's the use?

Fortunately, on the Arese track, we moved away from the cliches: no 5G proposed to download a film faster or to stream 4K content. Vodafone talked about smarter mobility, greater safety and driving comfort, reduced fuel consumption and information exchange between vehicles.

The very low latency of the 5G, its greater reliability and, why not, even the bandwidth, are tempting ingredients for cooking a series of on-board services until recently only hypothesized. In fact, with the latency of 5-7 milliseconds, one works below the threshold of 10 milliseconds, considering the window within which our perceptive system does not detect delays: that is, with latencies of this type, as happens in online video games , a human lives the interaction as fully in real time. And real time is the necessary factor when, for example, a vehicle is asked to automatically correct the driving parameters (how to brake autonomously) based on the information coming from other vehicles and from the road. And if we wanted to add the video component to this "real time", very useful to significantly increase information and help the driver, we also need enough bandwidth and the capacity of the network to withstand heavy traffic.

The video of the demos from the Arese track

Edge Computing on the track

For the tests we have been able to experiment, Vodafone has brought an edge computing node directly to the Lainate track, so that the computational power demanded by the algorithms to the network was certainly closer, without any risk of delays: "But if we had used our MEC in the Milan office, in reality, nothing would have changed – a Vodafone manager confessed to us ". But there is no doubt that the security, double and triple, was the basis of the demos that Vodafone made on the track with partners like FCA is Pirelli.

And it could not be otherwise, given that the many authorities present (among others the rector of the Polytechnic University of Milan Ferruccio Resta, the Hon. Alessandro Morelli, president of the Transport and Tlc Commission, the Councilor of the Municipality of Milan Granelli and that the of the Lombardy region Sala) were launched on a car towards an impact with another vehicle in a blind intersection. THEThe 5G and the computational systems connected in this way triggered an automatic braking that in all cases blocked the vehicle and avoided the impact.

The blind crossing: the network controls the traffic, warns and, if needed, brakes

The first demo, which we survived without problems, took place just like this: two vehicles connected in 5G to the edge computing node, sharing position and speed, were launched in a blind intersection, obviously synchronizing (manually) the arrival and therefore the potential impact.

The vehicle coming from the right was signaled to the car that it should have given priority, first only on the display; then with an acoustic signal. Finally, in time for safe braking, the vehicle receives the order from the network to stop a few meters before an otherwise inevitable impact.

Assisted overtaking, eyes over the tail

In another experience, the possibility of using the camera mounted on a vehicle in front to be fully visible on the road was demonstrated: we were on a car whose view was partially obstructed by a van.

The intelligent network then redirected the images of the car-mounted room in front of the van to our display, allowing us to understand that there were no vehicles coming in the opposite direction and thus allowing a safe overtaking.

The "train" of cars is better than the line

Another interesting demonstration was the one, already used for example of convoys of many queued-top TIRs, to create a real coordinated "train" of cars that, instead of making the classic elastic row (due to the different reaction times and styles of driving), leads all vehicles to proceed at the same speed and with coordinated safety distances to it.

In this way, as can be easily demonstrated, the vehicular capacity of the road section is greatly increased, travel times and consumption are reduced, and safety is increased. Dynamic coordination between many media obviously requires a minimum latency that 5G can guarantee.

Connected tires inform other vehicles about the state of the road

Vodafone then demonstrated the integration of its sensorized tires (for now prototypes but in 2020 should arrive on a production car) which, in addition to giving real-time information to the driver on the grip on the ground, also share them with the network and therefore the other connected vehicles.

In this way, those who travel along a road can know in advance and precisely where there will be potential problems with road holding. The experience on the track involved aquaplaning: as soon as the test vehicle passed on the flooded stretch of track, the other vehicles on the track received a notification.

All beautiful and working. But now work on the ecosystem

Vodafone has done its part, demonstrating that what is hypothesized and conceivable as an aid to 5G for smart mobility can be done. And there is still so much to prove and prove, if in addition to the veichle-to-veichle interaction, the communication between vehicle and infrastructure is also introduced.

For example, a connected vehicle can receive information not only from other vehicles but also from the "smart city", which cooperates, in terms of sensors, video cameras, intelligent traffic lights, public lighting, with vehicular traffic. Indeed, the communication between vehicle and infrastructure is also simpler. But both one and the other require first of all a standard, shared platforms and ecosis capable of working together.

If, for example, a group of automotive manufacturers (the thought goes spontaneously to the Germans) were to adopt a communication standard not perfectly compatible with that of other manufacturers, all the effort would be frustrated. Similarly, if the spread of connected and cooperative vehicles were too slow, they would delay in seeing the results. In other words, a mobility revolution has begun in Arese that is not destined to be accomplished in a complete way unless in at least a decade. Or maybe, if the policy is deaf, even never. And the presence of some politicians on the track to experiment with the innovations gives us hope that something can move in the right direction.

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