As Singapore witnessed an industry-wide 3G connectivity “sunset” in line with its Smart Nation goals, the Infocomm Media Development Authority announced in 2021 a reduction in support of older technology to make room for new 4G and 5G network advancements. These next-generation network developments have significant implications for the future of transport in one of the world’s most advanced smart cities.
5G-based Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communication is garnering increased recognition for its ability to turbocharge next-generation, connected car capabilities. From improved safety to reduced road congestion and lower emissions through optimised traffic coordination, V2X communication offers a whole host of benefits for drivers of connected cars of the future, which if tested robustly and harnessed securely, has the potential to forever change the way we get from point A to point B.
Improved roadway safety
Take safety, for instance. Fatal road accidents in Singapore rose by 16.2% from the first half of 2020 to the same period in 2021, with increased drink-driving and speed-related accidents.
The mass adoption of 5G-based V2X technologies has the potential to significantly improve the overall safety of our increasingly chaotic and dangerous streets. It can do so by enabling advanced levels of connectivity, data sharing, and improved coordination between cars and infrastructure, bicycles, pedestrians and scooters.
A 5G-enabled network would have the capability to warn vehicles of hazardous traffic issues and predict dangerous situations ahead of the driver’s line of sight. It could provide the necessary information that can help drivers steer clear of situations and intersections that are likely to cause crashes.
5G supports massive amounts of low-latency communications in real-time, something which is extremely important for our future transportation ecosystem as autonomous vehicles could generate large amounts of data that is communicated to cars, traffic lights or other pieces of roadside infrastructure like stop signs.
Think of a blind intersection in Singapore’s dense urban environment. A car is quickly approaching perpendicular to you, even though you have the green light. By the time the light detection and ranging technology picks up that car, you would not have enough time to react sufficiently. But if the vehicles communicate with one another, the 5G-enabled vehicles leveraging V2X technology could “see” that oncoming car and take steps to prevent an accident or near-miss.
Promises and pitfalls
It is not all about reducing heart-pounding driving scenarios, however. With quicker downloads and the ability to seamlessly connect between systems, your car’s ability to find the fastest route to work while optimising any necessary detours is a part of the promise of 5G and V2X.
Imagine telling your car that you must be at work by 8am, but you want to pick up coffee and laundry on the way. The car asks how you would like to pay before proceeding to send you the route, while queuing your coffee order so that it is ready when you pull up, plus having your dry cleaning paid for and hanging when you arrive. As you arrive at work, the car’s map sends you to a parking spot that it has reserved and paid for.
With the ability to quickly download real-time data on the latest traffic information, maps, weather conditions and construction hotspots, drivers will be able to make better and quicker decisions that optimise their route. As such, 5G and V2X can enable the Jetsons-like future to become a reality.
Realising this potential calls for more than just cars talking to one another and their environment. They need to ensure they speak the same language, are not interrupted and can trust what one another is saying. Innovations such as M1 and Nanyang Technological University’s V2X research testbed is the first step of many.
Ensuring that cars with V2X and 5G-enabled features can remain in contact, even as they travel across different networks and edge infrastructure between regions, is no easy feat but an absolute must. While this adds further friction to a speedy rollout of the technology, it is necessary to address the issue from the get-go. For this reason, connected car trials are extremely important.
Striking the balance between cybersecurity and privacy
Beyond 5G network compatibility issues, V2X must also be designed in a way that prohibits hackers from modifying messages in transit and sending false messages. For this reason, Security Credential Management Systems (SCMS), which enable V2X communications to be used safely, have an important role to play.
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SCMS secures the communication of vehicles with each other and with roadside equipment in two ways: by means of digital signatures — which protect messages against manipulation — and by means of certificates, which identify the respective senders as trustworthy. SCMS provides an implementation of the 5G-based V2X security protocols that makes it possible for original equipment manufacturers, suppliers, municipal infrastructure makers and roadside equipment manufacturers to provide trusted authentication and peace of mind to all those across the transportation ecosystem.
Lastly, as with many innovations, the technology raises privacy issues and the classic question of how much intrusion we want in our lives — or cars — to reap the many benefits available to us. To spur mass acceptance and adoption, it is incumbent upon the entire industry to show consumers the incredible innovation of what’s possible through data-sharing. More importantly, it needs to be proven over time that their vehicle data will be protected, secured and utilised in ways that respect their privacy and adhere to local compliance regulations.
While it is impossible to predict how quickly 5G-based V2X technologies will be embraced by the automotive industry, there is no doubt that future connected and autonomous vehicles will drive and make decisions based on rich data. The smart use of these data provides a host of benefits for individuals, the environment and the economy. However, the importance of having an industry-wide framework that can help to process it all efficiently — while keeping it secure and trusted — is critical to ensure the next generation of connected vehicles are able to reach their full potential. E
Charles Eagan is the chief technology officer of BlackBerry