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5G propels connected vehicles into top gear

Survey predicts 83 million 5G-connected cars will be on the road by 2035 as next-generation networks become more pervasive

A study from ABI Research has concluded that the commercial roll-out of 5G and other next-generation connectivity will have a transformative effect on worldwide roadways within the next three years.

The 5G in automotive and smart transportation application analysis report predicts that there will be 41 million 5G-connected cars on the road by 2030, rising to 83 million by 2035. By then, says ABI, 5G connected cars will make up more than three-quarters of the total of cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X)-equipped cars.

C-V2X is a global system for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and V2X communication designed to enhance road safety and facilitate smart transportation systems, including support of automated driving. Developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) organisation, C-V2X is claimed to establish the foundation to support safety use-cases with a path for integration into next-generation 5G technologies, while tapping into the broader 3GPP ecosystem to drive wider adoption.

With its evolution to 5G New Radio, C-V2X is seen as a candidate to satisfy the rich and differentiated experiences demanded by consumers in the world of 5G and autonomy.

A new European standard defining the use of C-V2X as an access layer technology for intelligent transportation system (ITS) devices was recently approved by the European Telecommunication Standardisation Institute (ETSI). A number of C-V2X products from automotive and infrastructure suppliers, featuring the 9150 C-V2X Platform, have completed certification in accordance with the European Radio Equipment Directive (RED) certification.

“These numbers underline the huge momentum for cellular connectivity, and particularly 5G, in the automotive sector,” said Leo Gergs, research analyst for 5G markets at ABI Research. “As a consequence, we will see a rising number of automotive OEMs start developing C-V2X modules for their cars during 2020. We can then expect the first 5G connected cars on the roads in 2022.”

The analyst noted that Ford has announced new car models equipped with C-V2X for 2021, while other automotive heavyweights such as Audi, BMW and Volkswagen have partnered with the likes of Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia to begin large-scale projects to test the capabilities of cellular technology for connected car use.

ABI regards the results of these proof-of-concept projects as auspicious, showing that, by enhancing traffic efficiency, 5G can reduce fuel consumption by up to one-third. Gerges said: “More importantly, however, the sharing of sensor data will make overtaking much safer and will be critical to protecting vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians or cyclists. Therefore, bringing 5G-based cellular connectivity into cars will be critical in making the vision of zero road traffic deaths a reality.”

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Looking at the connected vehicle market within the context of 5G as a whole, ABI has quantified the contribution of 5G to global GDP to reach US$17tn by 2035. A large part of that global GDP will be through increasing the safety of road traffic, which will reduce healthcare expenditure drastically and take pressure off doctors and hospitals.

“To unlock all these benefits, public authorities and transportation infrastructure owners need to realise their responsibility to fund the installation of cellular networks and enable the widespread deployment of C-V2X to make road traffic safer and greener,” said Gergs. “Recent developments around the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to open up the 5.9GHz frequency for C-V2X technology is a first step in the right direction.

“Now other regulators need to follow. Also, both infrastructure vendors and network operators need to wake up and work closely with automotive manufacturers to make 5G a success for connected cars.”

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