A testing time enabling technologies for driverless vehicles
The Future of Connected Automotives
Conversation about the future of the connected automotive industry has been accelerating at pace, and will continue to do so throughout 2018. Interest and investment has gained momentum thanks to the media, car manufacturers, data scientists, technology developers, telcos and operators, regulators, governments and chipset providers, with everyone keen to get a slice of this lucrative pie.
Business cases and monetization opportunities are wide-ranging, from efficiencies in logistics and fleet management, to robo-taxis! Autonomous vehicles could also revolutionize search-and rescue missions, entering dangerous environments without jeopardizing the safety of a driver. Scenarios could include identifying and rescuing victims from natural disasters like floods or hurricanes, or traversing unstable infrastructure following an earthquake or bombing.
However, for these use cases to become reality a number of questions must be addressed. How will a vehicle be able to prioritize critical information like safety updates and responses to the environment, whilst still processing a constant feed of data from on-board sensors? And, crucially, how can we thoroughly test driver-less cars, at scale, before roll-out?
How to Ensure Latency and Reliability Requirements?
To answer these questions, the same level of resources and fervor which have been ploughed into the flashy car tech must also be invested in testing the air interface, networks and protocol to ensure the latency and reliability requirements are achieved to enable driver-less vehicles. This critical communication needs to remain consistent despite the possible channel and propagation conditions.
The scale, density and complexity of testing how a network would cope with hundreds of driver-less vehicles in a real-life scenario, is almost impossible. As such, we’ve been focusing our R&D efforts on virtual network testing. At Mobile World Congress 2017, VIAVI demonstrated industry-first 5G testing capabilities, including an IoT proof-of-concept solution able to emulate up to one million 5G IoT devices, validating network performance in preparation for IoT connectivity. The UE simulator can support multiple simultaneous 5G air interfaces which are compatible with various wireless standards, including 3GPP’s 5G New Radio (5GNR).
Vision: Driver-less Cars
Every single test scenario can be emulated, so a (virtual) city of thousands of cars can be cost-effectively and safely trialed and improved. This approach will ensure a network is able to support the latency requirements for the driver-less car vision to become reality.
Network slicing – a key area of VIAVI’ R&D – also marks a fundamental step on the road to commercializing driver-less vehicles. Network slicing involves dividing a network into different virtual ‘slices’ to best suit the needs of a specific 5G use case. Driver-less vehicles will be one use case and ‘slice’, though within this there will be additional sub-slices dedicated to different kinds of traffic. For example, the car receiving safety-critical navigational information at the same time as passengers streaming 4K videos. Network slicing will make it possible to prioritize the safety critical data over the leisure activity of streaming videos.
Allocating network resources in this way also means that essential processes and data exchanges in an autonomous vehicle wouldn’t be affected when it drives through a built-up area or a congested stretch of road (where there may be many other devices and people using data-heavy applications). Having a network which is unaffected by the latency and capacity of others will also support vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, allowing a connected car to respond to things like traffic lights, as well as communicating its position to its surrounding environment.
MWC 2018 will be the year in which smart cities and smart vehicles are at the fore. VIAVI may not have all the answers to the many questions which will need to be answered before connected vehicles hit the road, however, our expertise in UE and device testing will help pave the way to this future.
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