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Will 5G networks make riding safer?

5G phone networks may make autonomous driving and vehicle sensors more sensitive and reliable, but will the faster networks also increase driver distractions?

A Spanish automotive company has demonstrated how 5G capability will improve inter-vehicle communication to detect vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists.

Ficosa used Barcelona’s 5G network to demonstrate its Bitax telematic platform which combines Wi-Fi and cellular technology to operate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) technology.

V2V and V2X uses sensors in each vehicle to detect the other, or an obstacle and then send alerts to the other vehicle to avoid a collision.

Ducati has been working with Bosch on a similar system and plans to introduce it next year.

Bosch radar warns riders of traffic autonomous 5g
Bosch radar warns riders of traffic

However, Ficosa is the first to launch the technology after connecting 500 vehicles in Denver, Colorado.

In its Barcelona demonstration, Ficosa showed how Bitax could detect a pedestrian via a thermal camera in traffic lights, a cyclist equipped with a “high-precision geolocation” unit and a car stopped by the roadside in low-light conditions.

The company says this proves the tech can also detect other vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists.5g V2V autonomous automated

“These use cases show how C-V2X technology offers a safer and more comfortable driving experience by allowing the vehicle to communicate with everything around it (other cars, traffic lights, traffic signals, pedestrians, cyclists, motorbikes, etc).

“For cars to ‘talk’ to the city, however, latency must be kept to a minimum. So, it is essential to roll out 5G capabilities.”

That means they need the higher-frequency signals of the next-generation network which has shorter range but less radio interference.

5G advantages/disadvantages

However, there are advantages and disadvantages in the faster network.

Speeds can be up to 10Gbps which is about 1000 times faster than most 4G signals. It is claimed it will download a movie in 10 seconds.

That would make it even faster than the best broadband network.

Great! So drivers will be tempted to watch Netflix instead of paying attention to the road.

Distracted drivers are already a major danger to riders.

St Paul Police Department has even axed its popular motorcycle unit over distracted driving crashes.

cops distracted drivers
Image from St Paul Police Department Facebook page

Apart from Barcelona, 5G has already been rolled out in some parts of the USA, South Korea, Sweden, Estonia, Turkey, Japan and China. Australia is expected to introduce 5G next year.

Samsung and several other Android brands will release 5G phones this year, but Apple will wait until 2020.

While 5G might help with the coming wave of automated and semi-automated vehicles using VC2V and V2X technology, it may not work in remote areas where riders are more likely to travel.

However, like current 4G phones, your next-gen phone will also be able to use previous generation signals for phone calls and data use.