This Finnish Robo-Car Helps Test 5G Networks for Autonomous Driving
Nokia and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland are collaborating together to discover how 5G networks can transmit information to and from vehicles while on the road. They are going to test the power of 5G when used in combination with VTT’s robot car, called Martti.
The research is part of the 5G-SAFE project, that sees researchers examine what kind of road safety services 5G will enable for supporting autonomous driving. Examples might include road condition and real-time incident information.
"One of the solutions being tested now in the project is a Nokia 5G connectivity in Martti, which allows the car to send its observations to a server for analysis across a low latency 5G link. The data can be used to adapt the car's behaviour according to actual road weather conditions", explains Matti Kutila from VTT's RobotCar Crew team.
5G may enable advanced communication
Data is collected from a robocar’s LiDAR, radar, video systems and roadside infrastructure such as weather stations, traffic cameras, and traffic lights as well as car sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This data is then sent via cloud-based services for analysis and dissemination to other vehicles in the area.
"The new 5G link is an important step towards the future development and testing of vehicle services using 5G devices, which are expected to become commercially available during 2019. The main benefit is the broadband uplink which enables collection of data from multiple cars to cloud service”, says Tiia Ojanperä, leader of the 5G-Safe project.
“We were running the first pilot in June, where VTT’s robot car ‘Martti’ was connected to a 5G test network available in a vehicle test track in Sodankylä, Finland,” said Ojanperä said in an email interview with IEEE Spectrum. “The test network in question was still pre-5G, and waiting for real 5G capabilities that will be deployed once the equipment (i.e. network devices and user terminals) is commercially available.”
Connectivity leads to intelligence say researchers
Many question the validity of 5G network in this kind of application but the researchers are convinced it may unlock new systems for autonomous driving. “It is not a big secret that real-time and reliable data is the oil, which enables machine-learning algorithms to make cars and transport systems evermore intelligent.
Connectivity is the key enabling technology for pushing forward the transport automation mega-trend.” Ojanperä explained.
Martti has a long history of being involved with cutting-edge technology, it was the first autonomous vehicle to drive in fully autonomous mode on a real snow-covered road.
It also set a new speed record of 40 km/h on the Aurora E8 intelligent road in Muonio. Martti is a research vehicle created off the chassis of Volkswagen Touareg. It is equipped with cameras, antennas, sensors and laser scanners that assist in its abilities to drive and collect data.