Technological advances witnessed in the past two decades have transformed all industries, including the transport sector. With 5G around the corner, stakeholders in transportation are holding their breath, awaiting major transformation. According to AT&T, the transportation industry is among the sectors that could benefit immensely from the introduction of 5G wireless networks. Even though 5G has several capabilities, the transport industry will benefit the most from high capacity, reliability, and low-latency.
The most important communications in transportation
One of the most important types of communication in transportation is vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), which allows vehicles to communicate by relaying signals between each other. Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) is also very important because it enhances the effectiveness of the transport system by enabling interaction between vehicles and sensors on roads, tunnels, bridges, traffic signs and lights, and so on. Unfortunately, the infrastructure in most cities does not allow seamless V2V communication and data exchange. “But with next-gen connectivity, we may see cutting-edge information become accessible to vehicles sooner than we think,” says Adrian Pearmine, National Director for Smart Cities at DKS Associates.
For proponents, 5G has the potential to address these communication challenges and deliver the much-needed end-to-end visibility. Subsequently, end-to-end visibility increases control over the transportation system, which is a precondition to attaining the highest level of safety. In a sense, unifying network protocols can increase the safety of transportation systems.
In the digital age, numerous short-range, wireless networks overlap, encompassing entire cities and other urban areas. This implies that most areas within and around cities and towns are covered by one or more wireless networks. City-wide wireless connectivity can be leveraged in different ways to offer residents a high quality of life, and the only problem is that the overlapping wireless networking protocols across urban areas were not designed to interact or communicate with each other. This is where 5G will come in handy. Integration gateways offered by 5G can be exploited to unify all short-range communication technologies to create a city-wide network. With end-to-end visibility offered by a unified city-wide network, vehicles can maintain communications by jumping from one network to another seamlessly as it travels around the city.
One of the weaknesses of 4G is poor or lack of coverage in critical areas in transportation systems, such as tunnels, long bridges, and subways. This is a major weakness because these areas are prone to accidents, flooding, collapse, terror attacks, and other safety threats. 5G will offer widespread connectivity reaching remote but critical areas along with the transportation system. For example, 5G’s strong connection can reach into underground tunnels that were excluded by 4G. Connectivity will allow the installation of sensors along the tunnel to gather and convey data in real-time using 5G’s low-latency connection. Safety threats can be conveyed across the entire transportation system in real-time via interconnected sensors and devices. With real-time data flowing across transportation systems, drivers reroute to avoid threats or adverse conditions.
The value of real-time notifications goes beyond safety to include increased efficiency as drivers and fleet managers can assess data and information availed by sensors to chart the most economically efficient route. Additionally, V2I communications can enable effective collaboration between vehicles and transportation infrastructure towards a common goal. For example, traffic lights empowered by 5G can detect changes in traffic flow and adapt accordingly to minimize unnecessary delays.