5G-Wheel Drive: 5G could finally put fully autonomous cars on the road

September 24, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

University researchers’ efforts with 5G now allow data to be transmitted to a driverless car nearly 40 times faster than what fixed-line broadband speeds would allow.

What does this mean?

Although there are self-driving cars on the road currently, fully autonomous cars are still being developed. While we can comfortably stream videos in HD and play online games with the current 4G network, it is simply not enough to provide autonomous vehicles with data processing capabilities and speeds to mimic, or even surpass human reflexes.

However, with 5G, potentially vital data could be transmitted to a car so fast that a detailed satellite navigation map of Britain could be sent within a single second. This means that autonomous vehicles could reach a level of safety and reliability beyond what even human-operated ones can offer.

What's the big picture effect?

The widespread use of fully autonomous cars could really benefit society, but it might also raise new issues. People who cannot drive (e.g. have mobility problems) could enjoy a higher degree of accessibility to vehicles and traffic conditions could be improved through vehicle platooning (autonomous vehicles travelling closely and safely together to decrease traffic through electronic means). On the other hand, the use of autonomous cars could mean millions of job losses around the world for bus, taxi and truck drivers (although new job vacancies would certainly be created elsewhere), and could also become another source of cyber-security concerns. Hackers could potentially find ways to interfere with or gain access to the data collected from the vehicles, and criminals may even compromise vehicle software systems to demand ransoms or carry out acts of terrorism.

Experts claim that using 5G to develop autonomous cars would bring about higher levels of road safety, and fewer road crashes would definitely mean more lives, money, and property saved. However, it would be nearly impossible to completely eliminate the risk of accidents, and in that case, more complex liability issues may be raised. Generally in road accidents, a driver who fails to exercise due care may be liable in negligence, whereas if the accident was a result of a defect or fault in the car, the car owner or the driver will probably resort to suing the manufacturers or the producers of the defective products for recovery of losses. Complicated liability questions may also arise when cars are advertised and expected to be fully autonomous: what if the driver decides not to override the car’s system before an accident and the vehicle makes a choice that the driver would never have chosen; should the driver be responsible?

It seems likely that 5G will revolutionise the transportation industry and allow fully autonomous cars to take to the roads globally in the foreseeable future. However, as the traffic industry evolves so too will the law surrounding it need to. To this end law firms and regulators need to pay close attention to 5G developments and prepare to litigate the road less travelled.

Report written by Ellis Wan

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