For some time now we’ve been hearing about 5G and the advantages it will bring to society. This technology will exponentially increase the quality and speed of data transmission, surpassing that of optic fiber so much that ‘latency’ (the delay between sending and receiving information) will be vastly reduced: from the 50 milliseconds of 4G to the 1 millisecond of 5G.
5G is behind one of the great projects of the future, the autonomous car, a vehicle that will do away with the driver and will change our way of traveling and moving around cities. Thanks to this technology, this driverless car would receive information almost in real time, making it possible to react to any event that could occur on the road.
According to José Francisco Montserrat, a researcher at the Polytechnic University of Valencia and advisor to the World Bank in Transportation and 5G, “we can reduce traffic accidents by up to 80%,” in addition to avoiding traffic jams and coordinating vehicles so that they drive through the city without the need for traffic lights, etc. As predicted by this researcher at UPV, and thanks to the application of this interconnected system, “street lights will only turn on when there is someone nearby, and garbage containers will alert us when they have to be collected. There will be far fewer cars because we will share them, and in 2050 there will be no traffic lights because the vehicles will be autonomous.”
But for this to be possible –we’re in the early stages of these automobiles and some human control is still needed– it’s also necessary that the highways be interconnected, not just with the vehicle but to each other.
There are already different projects to implant 5G in some cities. One of them is the 5G Pilot City in Guangzhou, in China, begun last April by the ZTE and China Mobile companies. The project is being tested in five settings: high-speed trains, the Metro, city buses, private vehicles and the highways.
Another ‘intelligent highway’ project is the so-called AIVIA Orchestrated Connected Corridors, with the participation of several international firms. In its initial phase it will be developed principally in the United States and Canada, but there are plans to extend it to other countries such as Chile, the UK, Poland, Spain, Colombia and Peru. Among the areas of development: traffic signs, road markings, telecommunications teams, ITS/V2X digital services, road safety systems, etc. The aim is to achieve a more connected kind of mobility, safer and much more optimum. In a word: driving that’s free from traffic jams, among other problems.
According to an article published in the digital magazine of Spain’s Directorate-General for Traffic (DGT), it is estimated that by the year 2025 the European Union will have invested 3.5 billion euros in a public-private plan to develop 5G technology. By that time, urban areas, the principal highways and railway lines will probably have this coverage. In that same article, several sources say that Spain is one of the most advanced European countries in this infrastructure, behind only Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
Some of the changes in Spanish traffic rules from the end of 2020 were already oriented toward those future uses of 5G. For example, the V-16 emergency light, which replaces those triangles that indicated an automobile breakdown on the highway, incorporates a geolocation system. Thus any incidents that might occur will be easily located. Another change in the regulations is that tow trucks must communicate telematically the location of the vehicle that has broken down.
The Plataforma Vehículo Conectado 3.0, better known as DGT 3.0, is one more step toward that mobility. It is a cell phone app that will make it possible to interconnect vehicles with a central database, coinciding with the definitive implantation of 5G in Spain in 2025. This will allow users to share information in real time.
DGT 3.0 will allow for the interconnection of all the elements of this particular mobility ecosystem: manufacturers of vehicles, platforms of public transport, town halls, insurers, users of public thoroughfares, etc.
The DGT will have a Point of National Access so as to be able act as a connecting point between the data and the intermediaries who receive it. Thanks to that interconnectivity, managed through mobile apps, there will be access to a detailed analysis of traffic. Some of the possibilities offered by this platform: receiving alerts about traffic jams in real time, knowing the state of traffic lights so as to be able to plan trips without any stops, and avoiding areas where there has been an accident.
And so that all this can be possible, a series of pilot projects is already underway: to digitalize the highway infrastructure network, such as the Cereixal tunnel, in Lugo, which offers assistance to vehicles that traverse it. These are the first steps toward the highway of the future.