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Honda and Verizon leveraging 5G and Edge Computing to make the driving experience safer

Verizon are collaborating with Honda to look into how mobile edge computing and 5G networks might enhance safety for connected automobiles in the market, and for future self-driving vehicles. 

The two enterprises, which made an announcement regarding the collaboration last Thursday, are piloting differing safety situations at the University of Michigan’s Mcity, a test bed for self-driving and connected vehicles. The objective of the endeavour is to research how 5G connectivity combined with Edge Computing could enable for quicker communications between cars, infrastructure, and pedestrians. Quicker communication could enable vehicles in collision avoidance, detecting hazards, and in identifying safer routes.  

The 5G tests are in the preliminary stage of research and Honda doesn’t have intentions in implementing this new technology as a product feature quite yet. Verizon does have intentions to evaluated 5G-equipped vehicles on public roads in a minimum of four cities in 2021, according to Brian Peebles, Verizon’s senior manager of tech development and one of the leaders in the project. 

The collaboration builds on Honda’s onboard SAFE SWARM AI technology, which the automobile manufacturer began work on four years ago, way back in 2017. That technology leverages Cellular vehicle-to-everything, or C-V2X communication, which is self-descriptive and enables vehicles to interact with other end-users on the road. 

We’ve observed similar technologies in the past with Dedicated Short Range Communications, which needs cell towers to interact between vehicles. 5G and V2X possess the benefits of being capable to interact device-to-device, not to specify endorsement by the FCC.  

Conventionally, with V2X, the vehicles interact with each other, said Dr. Ehsan Moradi Pari, research group head at Honda’s advanced technology research unit, according to TechCrunch. They furnish their data, such as their location, speed and other sensor data, and the vehicle executes a threat assessment, such as whether the driver is on a collision course with another vehicle. MEC and 5G technologies confer is the provision of our data to its networks, which subsequently informs us if there is a possibility for an accident or not.  

Verizon’s and Honda’s premise is that the technologies can manage communications far quicker than an automobile’s computer. Over being reliant on an automobile’s less capable computer to carry out the work, data produced from connected vehicles, persons and infrastructure is communicated to the 5G network. The computational work is then executed at the edge of the network, and not in the cloud – on a real-time basis. 

A vehicle that is reliant on sensors and software might be capable of comprehending whether a driver is about to collide with something, and automatically apply the brakes, however, the MEC can almost predict the future by looking up and communicating what’s occurring farther down the roadways. 

The quickness of the communications is the differentiating factor, according to Peebles, who observed that the round trip latency tests carried out on Verizon’s 5G networks to its MEC was communicated back in <50 milliseconds. 

One of the safety situations that Honda and Verizon evaluated was a red-light runner. Leveraging information from smart cameras, V2X and MEC software, they were able to identify the vehicle running a red light and deliver a visualized cautionary message to other vehicles coming towards the intersection. They evaluated similar situations to caution drivers or vehicles about pedestrians hidden by a building and an upcoming emergency vehicle whose sirens are obscured by loud music playing through the speakers. 

Providing real-time communications amongst all road drivers will have a vital influence in automated driving setting, stated Pari. Via these connected safety technologies, we can produce vehicle systems that identify possible dangerous scenarios in real time to caution the driver or automated system. 

While this preliminary research phase consists of making human-piloted automobiles safer, the Verizon-Honda collaboration might ultimately provide the foundation for the leveraging of 5G in upcoming self-driving vehicles. If the evaluations prove to be fruitful, connected automobiles would be safer and would influence a more functional network that smoothens out traffic congestion, minimizing air pollution as well. 

According to Peebles, the initiative was mainly being carried out to enable vehicular safety and human safety. An excess of 42,000 individuals die in automobile-related accidents in the U.S.A. alone, and a staggering two million suffer injuries. Technology is becoming more vital as we experience an evolution of human drivers, so as the shift occurs, we are required to do it in a safe and organized fashion, so that everything is functioning in unison. 

Self-driving vehicles being evaluated on public roadways presently don’t need 5G or edge computing. While self-driving automobile companies are looking at the potential of 5G, the automobiles they’re putting out into roadways are driven by current-day technologies. 

There are decelerators to this MEC-5G combo. This degree of interconnectivity only functions if there are sensors placed on all highways and each intersection. Several 5G-enabled automobiles and devices will be capable of interacting with each other, but they can only interact with infrastructure or pedestrians if smart cameras are logging them and inputting that data into the network. Sensors do not have 100% accuracy. 

That would need a massive infrastructure investment in addition to public acceptance and cooperation with states, cities, and municipalities to setup all of the required sensors. But one might look over to China for a use case. The nation has a governmental policy to shift quickly over to a 5G network, and several Chinese self-driving automobile companies are discovering that this type of connectivity and computational capacity is critical to their developmental plans. 

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