Volvo To Test 5G Automotive Applications With China Unicom
Connectivity is central to the future of transportation, and if self-driving vehicles are going to enter the mainstream market, they’re going to need 5G.
Volvo announced it has partnered with state-owned telecom giant China Unicom to explore vehicle-to-infrastructure and other automotive applications using next-generation 5G mobile network technology.
The two companies will research, develop and test ways that 5G connectivity speeds can be used to help improve safety, sustainability, customer convenience and autonomous driving. The upcoming 5G technology is many times faster than current 4G speeds, and its low-latency is critical for vehicles using the network to communicate real-time information with infrastructure, vehicles, and to cloud-based services. Volvo, which is owned by the Chinese Geely Auto Group, will explore how best to leverage the high-speed network to improve the driving experience.
“Volvo has been a leader in realising the potential of connecting our cars to enable new features and services such as detecting and sharing locations of slippery roads between vehicles,” said Henrik Green, chief technology officer at Volvo Cars. “With 5G, the network performance is improving to allow for many more real-time critical services that can help the driver be safer and get a smoother and more enjoyable ride.”
Applications could help the country improve traffic flow by optimizing speed limits to coordinate with timed lights, or help drivers find open parking spaces. It could also be used to help support Volvo’s “Drive Me” self-driving vehicle pilot program. The auto maker originally planned to put 100 self-driving vehicles on the road in Sweden and China in 2017, but paused testing until 2021. The new 5G connectivity technology will be in the next generation of vehicles built on the SPA2 modular vehicle architecture, which will begin production in 2021.
However, the deployment of v2x technology using state-owned infrastructure could raise privacy concerns. China operates a vast domestic surveillance network that tracks individuals, and is rolling out a nation-wide “social credit” system based on data collected from public and private sources. This credit system can be used to reward citizens with high credit scores, and it can be used to punish those with low scores by limiting their ability to purchase luxury goods or barring them from buying tickets for travel. Volvo notes that China is “widely expected to implement its own regional standards for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technologies.” This means that vehicle-to-everything applications developed hand-in-hand with the state-owned telecom without individual privacy protections built in could be the same as handing over the keys to the car to the government.