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World's First 5G-Connected Cars Demo'd in Korea

The cars chatted with sub-millisecond lag, enough to make coordinated action feasible

2 min read
bmw cars with 5g communication, korea
Photo: SK Telecom

When cars can share data, maybe they’ll act in unison and drive themselves safely enough for us humans to sit back and daydream. But the car-to-car chat would have to occur at data transfer speeds a lot faster than those our pokey 4G cellular service can muster.

Today, the necessary 5G cellular technology was demonstrated for the first time at a BMW race track near Inchon, in South Korea. Two BMWs shared information with the human drivers; in a future, self-driving setup, such sharing of data might allow cars to coordinate actions almost instantaneously.

The purpose-built 5G network covered 240,000 square meters (59 acres, or about half the size of Vatican City) according to SK Telecom, the South Korean company that installed it along with Sweden’s Ericsson. The back-and-forth communication had less than a millisecond of latency, par for the course for a system with a peak transmission rate of 20 gigabits per second.

Each car had a 5G station of its own, through which on-board cameras could upload ultrahigh-definition video for displaying to an audience. The cars were from the X5 and the S7 series (the first production vehicle to park itself driverlessly, as IEEE Spectrum reportedin April).

The coming of 5G is keeping the idea of cellular car-to-car connections alive. It may even end up driving a stake through the heart of alternative wireless schemes—notably dedicated short range communications, or DSRC, based on IEEE 802.11p. That’s the system upon which Europe’s Cooperative ITS Corridor, from Amsterdam to Vienna, is now being built.

A 5G connection will someday enable self-driving cars to brake in unison. If my car’s AI sees an obstacle as it rounds a bend, it could hit the brakes on both my car and your car, following just behind me. Of course, vehicle-to-vehicle talk won’t be enough: We’ll also need sensor-festooned cars capable of knitting together various kinds of data to make split-second decisions as good as a human driver’s.

That vision is still a ways off. No doubt we’ll first see 5G service in the hands of teenagers, who will use it to send and receive high-def video.

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Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

With the Robo-01, Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely aim for a fully self-driving car

4 min read
A black car sits against a white backdrop decorated with Chinese writing. The car’s doors are open, like a butterfly’s wings. Two charging stations are on the car’s left; two men stand on the right.

The Robo-01 autonomous electric car shows off its butterfly doors at a reveal to the media in Beijing, in June 2022.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters/Alamy
Purple

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China’s Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip.

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