5G and Autonomous Driving: A New Partnership

5G and Autonomous Driving: A New Partnership

5G and autonomous driving are two emerging technologies tied together in their growth. While 5G is much further along in its development, it will create opportunities to make autonomous driving a full reality in the future.

The two technologies are integrated in three main areas.


Infotainment is the collection of technologies that delivers information and entertainment to a vehicle. The last decade has seen major advancements in the field, including everything from driving directions, to satellite radio, movies, internet access, etc.

Now imagine how much more will be available when you no longer have to keep your eyes on the road or hands on the wheel. You’ll now be able to:

  • Clean out your email on the way to work.
  • Hold video meetings during your commute.
  • Read books and articles.
  • Catch up on your favorite shows.

This will require a faster, more stable network, which 5G will offer.

5g connectivity to driving class autonomous

Offloading the Processing

One of the key aspects of autonomous vehicle development is it’s being developed with electric vehicles in mind. None of the leaders in the field are working with combustion engine cars or trucks. One of the biggest challenges in the EV market is range, referring to how long (or far) the vehicle can travel without having to recharge.

Autonomous systems use a massive amount of electronic hardware, which complicates the issue. This hardware will cause a large power drain on the battery system. In other words, an autonomous EV would have much shorter range than a human operated counterpart. This is where 5G steps in. With its speed and bandwidth, it will allow cars to offload data processing to the cloud without sacrificing safety. If the in-vehicle hardware is crunching less data, it will use less power.

The advantage of offloading processing goes beyond range. It will also help extend the vehicle hardware lifespan. Think of how quickly your PC or phone hardware become obsolete. Now apply that to your car.

5G will allow off-vehicle systems to do the heavy lifting, which will extend the life of the vehicle’s electronics system. This means drivers won’t have to replace their vehicle hardware, or the vehicle itself, every 2-3 years.

Environmental Communications

Autonomous vehicles are in constant communication with their environment. They need a constant stream of data from their surroundings to work. There are three stages of these communications.·

  • Mobility in Isolation (with V2V)
    This is what we have today. Every vehicle is its own island, making decisions based on data from vision systems, radar, lidar, and GPS. They also have a limited ability to communicate with other vehicles in their immediate area.
  • V2X
    This is the next step, where the vehicle is reading its environment, is connected with other vehicles, and is communicating with the surrounding infrastructure. An example would be traffic lights sending a signal they’re changing.
  • Mobility with Community
    This is the final stage, which 5G will make possible. It involves a heavy flow of information between the autonomous vehicle and all possible data sources in the community. An example would be if you’re meeting a friend, and your vehicles figure out the best middle point, plot the drive, and are in constant communication the entire time.

This last stage would take almost all human operation out of the picture, unless we decide to inject it back in.


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As with any new technology, the 5G/autonomous driving marriage has hurdles left to clear. They include:

  • Availability/reliability of 5G in certain locations
  • Infrastructure costs
  • Regulations – Who will set them up and how do we keep them current?

Once we sort these issues out, the 5G/autonomous vehicle partnership has real potential to change how we drive, and the way we organize our entire society.

Make sure to keep current with PRA USA, as we have 30+ years of experience in the Electronic, Embedded, and Controls Engineering fields. We’ve helped thousands of professionals manage their careers, find new opportunities, and find the people they need to be successful. Contact us to find out how we can put these resources to work for you.

A big thank you to Tim Talty for his work in this field, which greatly influenced this content.

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