Right now, it seems like 5G is everywhere, even though this next generation of wireless service has yet to be widely deployed. It’s the subject of massive competition between the U.S. and China (somewhat of a 21st-century space race) and perhaps even greater speculation over rollout, coverage areas and international impact.
One thing is certain: 5G is on the near horizon, and with up to 100 times the speed of current wireless networks, it stands to affect nearly every part of our daily lives. We’ll gain even greater insights into the technologies 5G will enable in the coming year, and I, for one, am on the edge of my seat with anticipation after February’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. But not nearly as many people are talking about a topic with close ties to 5G: the Internet of Vehicles (IoV).
For a variety of reasons, IoV falls way under the public’s radar; a quick online search for the acronym delivers results for blockchain products, satellites and a videography institute, but nothing to do with connected cars.
So what is the IoV? Simply put, it’s the Internet of Things, on wheels. The IoV will allow vehicles to communicate with their drivers, with other vehicles, with traffic signals and city infrastructure — really, with any other internet-connected item.
It has the potential to transform the way we move people and things from one place to another, as well as less monumental, but still cool features like the ability to stream full video games in vehicles.
It’s easy to see how 5G’s unimaginable speed will enable an IoV boom, and commercial automakers are already experimenting with the possibilities. At Mobile World Congress, BMW and Daimler announced they’re spending €$1.1 billion to develop a platform that will connect services like route management, booking transportation, electric car charging, parking and ride-sharing, and will eventually pair with autonomous vehicles. Volkswagen and Spanish carmaker SEAT announced similar programs. While consumer vehicles are flashy and fun, B2B industries offer opportunities for the marriage of 5G and IoV to expand and realize its true potential. Trucking, in particular, will be revolutionized.
With every big fleet constantly relaying information between vehicles, drivers and operations centers, perfecting maintenance, optimizing routes, reducing and increasing efficiency across the board. It’s something Tesla already is piloting with its Semimodel.
In a city setting, IoV and 5G will act as city planners and logistics managers rolled into one. Data and automation will optimize traffic light coordination and send garbage trucks on automated routes. The city of the future? Anything engineers can imagine.
But what about safety? Doesn’t adding even more connectivity to a world where drivers already are messing around on their phones increase the potential for accidents? Do we really want drivers to be able to play video games on the road? The people asking these questions probably are the same ones who were worried about screens in dashboards and in-seat video players. Most in-car connectivity isn’t actually intended for use while driving; it’s for passengers and the vehicle itself. And as voice-command technology improves, it will evolve into the primary way for drivers and vehicles to safely interact. (Of course, this point is moot in a future of driverless cars.)
The most exciting part of this 5G and IoV future is that it’s coming sooner than you think. Thanks to inexpensive chip hardware, it’s incredibly cheap and simple to retrofit infrastructure and vehicles for connectivity. Within five years, we’ll see a dramatic shift in the way people, vehicles and cities interact. But for now, get ready to see a lot more IoV news pop up in your search results.