Will 5G Enable Connected Cars?

New standards are being considered for automobiles, but there are still a myriad of issues to be resolved.

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Sports Car speeding in Urban highway

As the telecom, automotive and semiconductor ecosystems rally to develop solutions for next-generation mobile networks for the connected car, 5G technology has emerged as a strong contender.

Fifth-generation mobile networks will enable data transmission rates of more than 10Gps, connecting machines to machines, as well as everything else, including smartphones, IoT devices that require a more energy-efficient network, faster data download and upload speeds, and lower latency than today’s 3G, 4G, 4G LTE, WiFi, and other connectivity technologies. A number of companies already are considering the potential of next-generation mobile networks, including 5G, to connect vehicles.

Many believe the connected car will go the way of the mobile ecosystem, particularly for software downloads and updates.

“When you look at the vehicle being connected to the cloud, whether to be able to do over-the-air (OTA) updates, upload diagnostic data from the vehicle, or infotainment streaming down media to the car — it’s going to do the same things we are doing on phones today,” said Richard Barrett, senior product marketing engineer, automotive wireless technology at Cypress Semiconductor. “It’s OTA updates you’re doing on your iPhones. Everybody is getting rid of storage, and everything is coming from the cloud. The DVD is going to go the way of the cassette desk. The large memory storage that you have inside the vehicle is going to go away, as well, at least for storing media, because you’re going to pull it down from the cloud just like you do with your mobile device.”

That said, automobiles have safety, and security considerations that are well above most other industries. The real challenge, especially for people looking at software ecosystems, is managing that security and doing things that don’t negatively impact safety, he said.

Other options
How 5G reaches the car may not be so obvious, though.

“It could be Bluetooth through your smartphone, it could be WiFi to a server, it could be wired connectivity when you go into service through the OBD (on-board diagnostics) port, 5G, telematics, USB plug-ins,” said Ron DiGiuseppe, senior strategic marketing manager in the automotive segment of the solutions group at Synopsys. “There are multiple protocols for the connected car. Also, there are many different industry standards organizations that are major stakeholders. 5G is certainly one, but there are also existing 4G LTE deployments, and then there are the government regulations driving some of these trends. There are a lot of stakeholders.”

A lot of the security concerns will be independent of the pipe, whether that is 4G, 5G, WiFi, or something else. But it’s typically going to be following consumer devices, which typically don’t have the security issues, Barrett noted. “Automotive has to look at security from a platform architecture standpoint, which is significantly different from any other industry out there.”

How different automotive is from other industries isn’t entirely clear, though. “In a cell phone, you still have to protect against stealing personal identifiable information, you still have to worry about hacking, you still have to worry about a lot of things,” said Robert Bates, chief safety officer at Mentor Graphics. “Frankly, if the automotive industry today was as far along as the mobile phone industry is in terms of security, then it would be a lot further along. And the kinds of things like [hacking into a Jeep] wouldn’t happen the same way.”

Further, in the car, all the communication is done by a totally insecure bus, he said. “Once you get into the in-car network, you’re there. I agree there are going to be a number of communication mechanisms, and a number of different security techniques that are going to be necessary because there are going to be different entryways into all of them. The concept of using the OBD port for, say, introduction of malware — that’s already been done as a demonstration. And it’s something that, as long as there is an OBD2 port and as long as it’s not secure, that possibility is always going to be there.”

Another consideration is the fact that if passenger vehicles adopt system design commonalities as commercial trucks, as Charlie Miller, from Uber Advanced Technologies Center pointed out during a keynote at ARM TechCon last week, will they be easier to hack into like their big rig cousins?

Fortunately, time in on the side of developers. As Samer Hijazi, senior design engineering architect in the IP group at Cadence, explained that if we are looking at 5G, in the best case scenario it won’t be ready until at least 2019. “By that time, we will start seeing the real self-driving cars, and that’s going to drive new regulations, mandates, and expectations.”

New forms of connectivity
Using 5G for infotainment is logical, he said, and the regulatory and technical requirements for self-driving cars are driving new forms of connectivity beyond the driver being the central point for consumption of data. “The car will consume data on its own, and that will require a different pipe than what the 5G pipe will be providing in the same timeframe,” Hijazi said. “We find there are specific flavors of WiFi being developed specifically for cars. The deployment of that, as far as whether it will be WiFi or some other connectivity, to serve the car cognition systems and interconnect between cars, will have its own ecosystem driven by regulations and rules, the same way we have traffic signs.”

As far as safety goes, that will be regulated heavily. “Is that all going to be available in 2019? Probably not. There are a lot of technical issues that are going to face us in the automotive space once we change the paradigm from the human as the consumer of data, and producer of data, to a machine being the consumer and producer of data,” Hijazi said.

At the same time, innovation is exploding in this market. There is more experimentation underway across the automotive ecosystem than anyone can remember.

“If you look at Tesla, they’re doing something that traditional automakers haven’t done, which is experiment,” said Charlene Marini, vice president of segment marketing at ARM. “It’s almost like the software mantra of releasing a beta and letting your users help you evolve the product. When we enter this world of connectivity not just being for telematics, new business models around connectivity in the car will emerge. We will see more experimentation and faster innovation cycles, within limits, of the traditional industry. But it’s so important that the security part moves along with that. That’s what the traditional industry will bring. They are paying attention to it, they are focused on it.”

Electric vehicles are helping to shift the automotive paradigm, as well. “The EV (electric vehicle) breaks the old model that cars are all about rubber and steel,” said Barrett. “They’ve been building cars the same way for well over 100 years, and it’s a very conservative industry. That’s going to change. Look at the mobile phone industry. Nokia used to take three years to develop a phone platform. All of a sudden, Samsung came along and did it in three months and it totally changed the paradigm of that industry. And look where Nokia went. The question is how will GM, Chrysler, BMW, etc., adjust to these much faster design cycles? These could greatly benefit security and address the fact that the systems are so old in a vehicle that they weren’t made for what we are trying to do with them today.”

Transitioning to new technologies
In the transition to 5G and other automotive technologies, much will be application-driven, DiGiuseppe said. “When you look at the apps in the car that are going to drive that transition, we haven’t mentioned Tesla with OTA updates, especially with the amount of software that would benefit from a higher data rate like 5G compared to 4G or 3G or even WiFI.”

Other apps driving the transition to new technologies include predictive maintenance, where all the sensors in the car are uploading status to the cloud so big data analytics can analyze what’s going on with the vehicle and provide warnings for upcoming malfunctions. Real-time navigation is another. But the most disruptive are autonomous driving applications, he said. “With every autonomous driving application, there’s real-time trajectory navigation, and that has to have high bandwidth, always running to predict the trajectory as the car drives.”

BMW announced in July that Mobileye’s Road Experience Management (REM) technology will enable BMWs to take real time photos and upload them to the cloud. All of that has to be done real time, which is why 5G is getting so much attention. 5G is really the low latency, and the bandwidth that will enable that, DiGiuseppe added.

But not everything will be done in the cloud. A lot of the autonomous technology will happen locally in the car itself, Hijazi said. “In 2019, we will be on the very edge of starting it so there will be a lot of room for improvement, and the race to collect data is just starting today. It will be in full bloom in 2019 because there will be real fleets that are roaming on our dime, because we are buying them, that are collecting data. And all the companies want our data. Tesla, for instance, is using existing infrastructure. They put 3G and 4G modems in our cars, and they are using that link to help them collect the data. I would say these are experiments of today. That will be shaped in a different business model and structures in that timeframe, so the point that was made about applications, that they would drive the mandates, the bandwidth, and the technology itself, and who’s paying for it — that’s going to be a topic of interest. Today we are paying for the connection to Tesla to upload the data.”

Bates contends that consumers will continue to pay for it. “No one else is going to pay for it. Either we’re going to pay for it, or if you believe the future of self-driving cars is essentially an Uber fleet model, then Uber will pay for it. But essentially, at the end of the day, even if Uber pays for it, we’re paying for it.”

Given the burgeoning nature of the autonomous driving paradigm, it becomes obvious that today there are many different directions technology and business models could go.

“I don’t know if a company like Tesla is going to win the automotive war,” Bates said. “They are winning the data war today because they’re running the experiment. My main focus is safety. Security is part of safety in the automobile these days, and I’m convinced now that a lot of things that we spend a lot of time thinking about — especially automotive functional safety — don’t matter. Of course they matter. We don’t want the software to be crap, we don’t want the hardware to be crap, but since the biggest safety problem in a car today is me, as soon as companies like Tesla, Volvo, and others roll out autonomous vehicles and can create a compelling set of evidence that says, ‘Our autonomous drive isn’t perfect but it’s better than you,’ then the only thing that’s going to hold it back are things like legal, insurance, regulatory, and the like.”

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  • Alex

    an article about Connected vehicle technologies Should include DSRC