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5G Shifts Connected Vehicles up a Gear

2018.02.01 By Zhu Zhiqiang, Zhao Taifang & He Chao

Connected Vehicles (CV) is a broad-ranging concept that includes technology, products and services, application scenarios, business models, and policies and regulations. CV in the form of telematics has been around since 2009. Since then it hasn’t evolved much past additional types and applications thanks to advances in mobile Internet technology. Telematics has yet to create any network value.

With governments and regulatory bodies forming policy standards and actively promoting CV, four main CV threads have developed: connected, autonomous, shared, and electric. These apply across the verticals that embrace CV: automotive, communications, Internet, and shared mobiles services.

The Society of Automotive Engineers of China's (SAEC) Intelligent Connected Car product form is a good example of this concept. SAEC advocates the integration of in-vehicle ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems), which comprises laser radar, millimeter-wave radar, camera vision recognition, and ultrasound, with communications technology. Integration would enable autonomous behaviors like data collection, awareness, identification, tracking, judging, and decision-making to be transmitted, shared, and analyzed by the network, leading to improvements in traffic safety and efficiency and, eventually, to the development of next-gen autonomous vehicles.

ICT is enabling CV

ICT technology will be essential for connecting cars. As the world's leading ICT solutions provider, Huawei's work in CV has focused on three areas:

Devices: For a car to connect to a network and transmit data, it requires an in-vehicle communication module called a T-box. Huawei's first product is a customizable 3G/4G T-box for CV.

Pipes: CV applications in their current telematics stage do not require low latency on the wireless network side, with most current CV products using WCDMA networks. Mainstream CV services do not require high-speed network transmission, and very few manufacturers have adopted 4G LTE. 4G modules are very expensive and are mainly used to provide in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspots. However, as 4G modules and data tariffs become cheaper and 4G networks more prevalent, 4G applications will gradually become dominant.

Huawei is also developing a cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) solution based on LTE-Vehicle (LTE-V) for scenarios such as autonomous driving and smart traffic integration. The solution is still in the stage of setting standards and PoC.

Cloud: Here, “cloud” refers to a combination of Huawei's OceanConnect IoT cloud platform and public cloud. While OceanConnect wasn’t specifically designed as a CV vertical platform for the automotive industry, it is in fact a cross-industry IoT platform product designed for a high number of connections. It offers features such as big data analysis, the rapid enablement of industry applications, and hierarchical decoupling for services and applications. The OceanConnect CV solution is a typical IoT application scenario in the auto industry.

The three stages of CV evolution

Based on its understanding of industry trends, Huawei has identified three stages of CV evolution: One, the previous telematics stage led by automotive companies; two, multi-partner intelligent and CV; and, three, the future intelligent transportation system (ITS) and shared mobility stage. Huawei's key focus is on the last two stages, with the goal of developing intelligent transportation services through multi-industry collaboration between automakers, transportation departments, telecom operators, and cloud providers.

Stage 1: intelligent and CV based on OceanConnect IoT Platform

Huawei has not been involved in traditional car networking platforms for telematics. Based on the digital transformation taking place in the car industry, Huawei has become a Cloud Platform as a Service provider, using its OceanConnect IoT platform to build an industry ecosystem and become a cross-industry services enabler.

OceanConnect enables car companies to transmit in-vehicle data securely, reliably, and efficiently to the cloud. Cars become a core digitalization asset, creating a next-gen digitalization engine for automakers. The in-vehicle data is also made available to a wealth of upper-layer applications, and the platform supports evolution to LTE-V and AI.

OceanConnect offers basic capabilities on three levels: connectivity management, device management, and application enablement. Regularly released CV suites help industry partners quickly implement different IoT service applications. The solution also provides unified, secure CV access through layered security architecture and IoT agents for T-boxes and in-vehicle infotainment systems, which simplify adaptation to different device manufacturers' protocols. Interoperation is made possible with car companies' existing IT/OT systems, enabling unified data presentation and management and lowering business investment costs.

OceanConnect also opens up cloud computing, big data, and networking capabilities. These are combined with pre-integrated partner capabilities and packaged as different enabling suites. Car companies can use these suites to choose the services they need on the platform and meet end users' travel requirements.

Stage 2: LTE-V-based intelligent and CV

V2X (vehicle-to-everything) involves the communication of information between cars and all the entities that may affect them, with the aim of reducing accidents, easing congestion, reducing pollution, and providing informational services. V2X incorporates vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), vehicle-to-network (V2N) and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P).

There are currently two main forms of V2X technology – dedicated short range communications (DSRC) and LTE-V. DSRC was first introduced in the US and has seen a number of years of development and testing since standards were released in 2010. C-V2X emerged as cellular mobile communications technology. The C-V2X technology LTE-V offers advantages over DSRC in chip costs, technology, and business models, and has as such experienced rapid development.

ETSI has defined 53 V2X application scenarios and 3GPP has defined 27. The main ones include:

Road traffic safety scenarios: includes alerts for emergency braking, vehicle problems, intersection collisions, dangerous road conditions, and vulnerable road users.

Road traffic efficiency scenarios: includes speed guidance for traffic lights, green wave, congestion alerts, and traffic lights priority for emergency vehicles.

LTE-V utilizes existing cellular networks and spectrum to provide V2X information exchange. LTE-V has two modes: LTE-V-cellular and LTE-V-direct. The former is centralized, with communications taking place through the Uu interface. The latter is distributed, with direct car-to-car and car-to-road communication achieved through the PC5 interface.

LTE-V standards were frozen in 3GPP R14. China's standards bodies C-ITS and CCSA are accelerating the standardization of LTE-V, and Huawei is one of three appointed reporters for LTE-V standards. In September 2017, LTE-V 5.9 GHz spectrum testing was completed under the guidance of the National Radio Monitoring and Testing Center. Testing results were in line with expectations and are expected to be released in 2018.

Stage 3: 5G-based ITS and shared mobility

5G will enable a fully connected world, and the car industry will be among the first wave of sectors that will be transformed by 5G technology. Offering ultra-low latency, ultra-high bandwidth and reliability, 5G networks will enhance safety and efficiency in the transportation sector.

5G will help make self-driving vehicles a reality because 5G networks will satisfy the extremely high requirements key CV service scenarios place on network performance. It will accomplish this with innovative technologies like network slicing, and by providing end-to-end latency as low as 1 ms and peak rates up to 10 Gbps.

Standardization of NR-V2X is speeding up, with Uu air interface and Sidelink standards anticipated to be fixed in R16 and R17. This will enable the commercial adoption of CV based on 5G networks, which will be a considerable boost to the development of the autonomous driving sector.

The main application scenarios of 5G CV include tele-operated driving (TOD), high-density vehicle platooning, and rapid and coordinated lane-change assistance.

TOD solutions will leverage remote driving control systems supported by high-performance 5G networks to transmit 360-degree views of a vehicle's surroundings to a control room via on-board cameras and sensors, acting as the eyes and senses of the driver. This will enable closed-loop remote control of cars, as remote drivers will be able to make decisions and operate cars based on this information.

In June 2017, China Mobile, SAIC Motor, and Huawei jointly completed the first demo of 5G-based remote driving technology in China. During the demo, which took place in Shanghai, the remote driver was able to drive a car from tens of kilometers away with accuracy and ease, enabled by the 5G network's ultra-high bandwidth and ultra-low latency.

The remote driving scenario required a 50 Mbps upstream rate to transmit the multi-channel HD video collected by the car in real time to the driving console. The driver's control signals were transmitted to the vehicle tens of kilometers away in under 10 ms via the ultra-low latency 5G network – as fast as if the driver was in the car.

TOD technology will have many application scenarios in places with fixed road routes, such as airports and ports, as well as in harsh environments like mining sites or for compacting ground on construction and waste disposal sites. It will also be used in the future to complement autonomous vehicles such as taxis or shared cars services, with vehicles remotely driven and coordinated.

Huawei is working with its partners around the world to accelerate the arrival of autonomous driving based on 5G.