While uncertainty remains around the timing of a safe leap up to Level 4, there is no doubt that we’ll need to have reliable, pervasive, high-speed connectivity for this to take place. The need for such connectivity is critical to underpin vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, which would allow AVs to take advantage of numerous connection points to provide improved levels of safety to all, improvement in entertainment for riders, and more efficient travel-reducing congestion and emissions helping to not only reduce environmental impact, but boost the economy.
By one estimate from INRIX, congested roads in the US cost the economy US$88 billion annually, a cost that V2X could help dismantle.
The right technology to allow vehicles to interact with telecommunications networks, infrastructure, other vehicles and pedestrians will be critical. There is hope that 5G could be the technology to allow this to happen; however, with its rollout just beginning, we can’t expect full global use of 5G immediately.
Additionally, while 5G is an improvement over the current 4G system, I hazard to guess most people wouldn’t want to chance riding in a fully autonomous vehicle with the connectivity issues that cellular connections are known for, so further redundancies to ensure no connectivity losses will be critical.
While 5G is the clubhouse leader at this point, there are still competing technologies, such as Wi-Fi, that are being viewed as potential replacements or augmentations to 5G connectivity to fill the gaps in cellular service. The umbrella underneath V2X is broad and vast, with significant research and development needed to implement each of the supports underpinning; a potential delay in one or more of them could further delay the rollout.