AUTOMOTIVE & 5G
Q&A with Maxime Flament, CTO, 5GAA
Q How/why is 5G changing the transportation industry? What are the main benefits?
A First of all, 5G should be seen as an evolution from a long list of improvements starting with the first version of LTE in 2008. Gradually, LTE advanced, and LTE advanced Pro have added unique capabilities building the basis for the launch of 5G. Some say that 5G will take years to come, I would say 5G is already there with the underlying 4G covering most of our roads. And the automotive industry did not wait for 5G to start connecting their products and services. The revolution is already there! 5G mobile networks, complemented by 4G/LTE, redefine the way we can offer connected vehicle experiences by offering gigabit speeds for limitless Cloud services including innovative infotainment, telematics and teleoperation use cases. However, the evolution towards 5G New Radio (5G NR) is far from a mere upgrade for the mobile retail industry. It adds the capability to control quality of service which is a huge step compared to the best effort service offered in 4G. This change opens the door to a large number of missioncritical use cases in a series of vertical markets, including obviously transport. The major contribution of 5GAA is to have worked with 3GPP to ensure that vehicle connectivity is fully part of the evolution towards 5G. This goes by the name of Cellular Vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) communication and includes both internet mobile data access as well as short range device-to-device direct communication. The direct communication allows cars to communicate with each other directly for basic safety use cases, and later on, for autonomous driving and advanced use cases. This mode of operation can run without dependency or reliance on mobile network coverage. With C-V2X, we add a societal dimension to the 5G deployment answering road safety, traffic efficiency and environmental needs with a clear contribution to the digitalisation of Transport.
Q What are the biggest questions 5GAA gets from the relevant vertical markets? Is there any lack of education or industry, regulatory, technology, financial barrier that holds the transportation industry back from investing today?
A 5GAA’s mission is precisely to bridge between the automotive vertical and the technology and telecommunications companies to develop together end-to-end connectivity solutions for future mobility and transportation services. Different industries will have very different market approaches, business models and company cultures: building consensus requires everyone to take a step in each other’s direction to finally move forward together. For instance, 5G standards are defined by telecom standardisation bodies such as 3GPP where historically, most vertical industries have had extremely limited participation. There is a growing need for vertical industries to get involved, to get their end-user requirements optimally captured. However, this can prove to be a challenge as it requires important resources and your voice can be somehow diluted given the number of players around the table. In the era of converging industries, verticals like the automotive sector must invent new business models taking into account digitalisation but also the sharing economy, environmental concerns etc.
There are already massive investments into 5G but also some caution until they figure out how to make the best out of the new technology features enabled by 5G. 5G is the key enabler to tremendous benefits for the society overall: saving lives, reducing congestion and emissions, etc. But turning this vision into reality requires a high level of collaboration between multiple actors, which takes time. Another factor why companies may hold back in certain regions is the uncertain policy landscape e.g. in Europe where a competing technology to 5G had the favors of some decision-makers for connected mobility.
Q What needs to be done to truly unlock innovation in transportation and 5G?
A In Europe, 5GAA has exchanges continuously with the European Commission in order to elaborate a fair regulation enabling a level-playing field for the deployment of C-ITS. Eventually, the EU Member States joined our plea for technology neutrality and objected the Delegated Act on C-ITS in July 2019. 5GAA endorses the Council conclusions and will continue to advocate for an EU framework that fits the current industry momentum around connected vehicles and is aligned with the evolution towards 5G while improving road safety and traffic efficiency. In North America and more specifically in the US, the FCC has taken the steps to allow C-V2X short range communication in the upper 20 MHz of 5.9Ghz spectrum. US FCC officials are putting to the test the connected vehicle ecosystem of automakers, telecommunication companies, and their respective suppliers. Now it is our turn to deliver. Both Ford and Audi are planning commercial deployments and many roadside unit vendors are offering dual-mode products to alleviate the current uncertainty around the winning technology. In China, the government is completely supportive of C-V2X with a multi-ministerial programme incorporating the technology in the 5G deployment plan.
Q What does the transportation industry need from their connectivity providers? Is there any lack of education or communication between them? If so, how can it be overcome?
A The auto and telecom industry – collaborating under 5GAA - support the idea that 5G will further enable mission-critical enhanced V2X communications and be the ultimate platform to enable impactful C-ITS services, even beyond day1 and 1.5 services. With the experience gained along the 2G, 3G, 4G generations, the 3GPP standardisation partnership has warranted the smooth transition and backward compatibility towards a 5G world. The radio standards are continuously being developed to answer the needs of the industry. Participation of vertical industries in the 3GPP standardisation process is therefore essential. For Connected Mobility, the smart, safe and clean needs are answered in the C-V2X family of standards with LTE-V2X in Release 14 for basic safety complemented by NRV2X in Release 16 for advanced driving. While LTE-V2X is being deployed now, the advanced driving capability will need to wait a few more years.