The future 5G-enabled car will be safer - and may be your health and safety buddy

By Yong Shu Chiang

Speaking at last month’s Mobile World Congress, a panel of automotive and connectivity experts agreed that the future car will be safer, more autonomous, offer more connected services, and know more about your health and well-being.

A panel of automotive and connectivity experts called the future car a "connected living solution" and "software-defined" vehicle, which would offer more connected services such as safety messages and health and wellness solutions. Image: Mobile World Congress 2024

The car of the future is likely electric, with a degree of autonomy and more connected services, and safer for both drivers and passengers.

That was the consensus of a panel of automotive and connectivity experts, who discussed the concept of the “connected vehicle” at a smart mobility conference during last month’s Mobile World Congress.

Much of this vision hinges on 5G technology transforming the network infrastructure on which the car of the future will need to stay connected to.

“This whole move towards ‘software-defined vehicles’ that need to be connected all the time is happening at a rapid pace,” said Cameron Coursey, Vice President, AT&T Connection Solutions.

“[Followed by] the movement towards more electric vehicles, with the need to find charging stations, and finally as we move eventually into the autonomous vehicle space, connectivity will grow in importance… and really, 5G is the way to do it.”

Enhanced safety in the future car

How does 5G translate to enhanced safety for users of future cars? Simply put: speed.

While the majority of connected vehicles today are connected over 4G networks, 5G has the potential to be as much as 100 times faster than 4G. This means that real-time communication can be faster and more accurate.

Coursey said that 5G could enable the creation of nationwide networks to support safety-based solutions, something that already exists in the United States for first responders.

“We can take advantage of advanced network services… that allow us to provide mission-critical delivery of communications, like safety messages,” said Coursey.  

According to US Department of Transportation, better and faster access to emergency and trauma care for traffic crash victims – something enabled by 5G – could mean greater survivability. It found that 20 per cent of trauma deaths from crashes were preventable.

Coursey added that 5G could enable data-driven solutions such as smart navigation and more efficient use of roadways and management of traffic.

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Autonomous vehicles are just around the corner

Also speaking at the conference, Serafino Abate, a regulatory affairs expert for Volvo, said that Level 5 autonomous vehicles – capable of fully autonomous driving without human supervision – could be a reality by as soon as 2028.

However, he believes that commercial use cases, such as in trucking, may arrive on the roads sooner than “robo-taxis” or consumer autonomous vehicles.

“I think that by 2028 or 2029, we will see [fully autonomous vehicles],” Abate said. “We always talk about autonomous cars, but actually, the huge potential for some Level 5 use cases is in the transportation of goods.”

In Singapore, the latest Geospatial Master Plan, developed jointly by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), highlights that high-speed connectivity and sensor technology integrated with geospatial systems will be an enabler for autonomous systems such as drones, autonomous vehicles, and robotic systems.

At the launch of the 2024 master plan on 6 March, Singapore’s Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong noted that advancements in geospatial technologies and applications are becoming “more and more intertwined, interdependent and… relying on the knowledge and data of one another, infused into everyday life and into our economy.”

SLA also announced the development of a heavy vehicle routing algorithm on its OneMap geospatial platform, leveraging on heavy vehicle traffic data from the Container Depot and Logistics Association (Singapore), or CDAS.

This would enable commercial drivers to route their heavy vehicles more efficiently and safely, and could be a precursor to how geospatial data can enable autonomous routing in the future.

Car-based health and wellness solutions

Sarwant Singh, President and Chief Commercial Officer for market research firm MarketsandMarkets, moderated the conference and predicted that the car of the future would be “an element of a connected living solution”.

Suman Sehra, Global Vice President, Automotive Product and Platform Portfolio Management, for automotive solutions provider Harman, shared the sentiment, adding that consumers would be the driving force behind what the future car experience would be like.

“Consumers have come to expect their vehicles to be no different [than other connected devices], in terms of how they personalise those experiences,” he said. “The consumer ‘force’ is really the epicentre of what is yet to come.”

Singh agreed and said that some smart mobility firms are anticipating consumer demand for as many as 300 to 400 connected services for future cars. These services could include health and wellness solutions.

“As an extension of safety, when you think about well-being, we do look at how we create that environment inside the cabin and outside,” said Sehra. “Of course, connectivity is how it’s delivered.”

He added that Harman already has a safety and wellness product that utilises sensors, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to sense the vital signs of drivers, as well as monitor their level of distraction or drowsiness when operating the vehicle.

Just as smartphones and smartwatches can already provide health and well-being insights, so will the car of the future.

“It will make sure that you are in control of your journey at any time,” said Sehra. “And it’s able to tell a lot about what’s happening with you as a person.”

Also read: On the road to smoother journeys and greater sustainability