The car of the future: 5G-enabled

The future of cars is connected, which will become increasingly important as more autonomous features become standard, requiring cars to communicate with each other while on the road.

Europe just vetoed a proposal to use a new form of WiFi to connect cars in a decentralized manner, rather than cellular-based technologies, like 5G, on European roads. The work is designed to force car makers and technology vendors to choose a single communication standard for European roads, and allow all vehicles to interconnect in the future.

Car makers had argued that while 5G may be interesting in the future, but WiFi is already standardized, and available on the market.

I haven’t owned a car in years, but was surprised when I traveled to North America and rented a car that turned out to be 4G-equipped. Something about the car itself being directly connected to the internet felt creepy, because I couldn’t be sure who it was talking to (almost certainly the insurance company, at the very least!). There is no standardization or rules about the use of 4G in cars, but it’s increasingly becoming common there.

The argument for connecting cars is fairly simple: it promises to offer road safety improvements. If cars can be aware of each other’s location, speed and other information, it’s possible that it could help avoid collisions, or use cloud computing power to help optimize driving conditions.

Car makers in Europe, like Renault and Toyota would prefer to use WiFi, but that wouldn’t provide an internet connection, just localized networking. Daimler, Ford, BMW and Qualcomm prefer 5G, which allows connectivity beyond just the cars close-by. 

But, as you might know if you’ve been reading this for a while, 5G is largely a pipe-dream today. Yes, there have been promising demonstrations in isolated locations, but it’s going to be years before it hits everyone’s pockets. 

A vote for 5G is a vote to delay connected cars entirely, until the technology is widely available and car-ready... but I’d argue standardizing this properly is much more important than rushing it out the door.

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