Cars, I breath, sleep and dream about it every moment. I love driving and own a rear wheel drive NB Miata with no electronics, ABS or other safety features apart from airbags. Driving it every day in Michigan be it Snow or Rain, I have been close to losing control many times, but still I go back as I enjoy every moment of it. My car is connected to me and no one else.

On the other hand, Autonomous cars are going to come sooner than we think. The time taken to visualize, design and develop a product is ever shrinking and some degree of autonomy would be offered from every luxury player by 2018.

Am I against autonomous cars, hell no and the simple reason is, it would clear the road from idiots who do not drive safely. At the same time after driving across major metropolitans such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc it gives me a sigh of relief when I am not driving in peak traffic and later spending on an avg 10-15 mins to find parking. Also, long distance travel is fun but after a while it takes its toll as most American roads are dead straight without much flavor. Most importantly, the population has a good chunk of aged people and this would be a boon for them in many ways.

When autonomous vehicles kick in what would the passengers do? We have seen the Mercedes Benz F 015 concept and the Volvo XC 90 with the Intellisafe Autopilot where the passengers can run meetings, watch movies, connect to the internet of things and other devices or simply relax.

To get an autonomous vehicle going you need information, either from vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to infrastructure, vehicle to the cloud or all of them. This is required so the vehicle can maneuver safely, avoid bad sections of the road, skip the jam or just cruise ahead. Have you ever thought about how we get the information then? This gets me to the question, is 5G the answer for information transfer ?

5G has incredible speeds, almost 20-40x more than 4G LTE. It can now communicate within a blink of an eye or download a movie by the time you complete your yawn. Few of its critical benefits are listed below

– Less Latency – Speed of information exchange is high

– Web Apps – Cars do not need to download huge softwares and use heavy hardware to run apps as short latency allows silk smooth experience. The vehicle’s hardware does not become obsolete very soon like our phones as we can run the apps from the web, also our cars might consume less energy to run as we require less hardware now. This is similar to using a high end Chromebook.

– Prioritization – data can be directed to areas which require more attention. For ex- vehicle communicating with the server or satellite can be prioritized compared to streaming music.

– Mapping – Vehicles can map enormous data and transmit it back to the company servers, this data can be used to educate other cars about the conditions. Similar but not the same idea does exist in the Tesla Model S but can be refined further with finer details of the road.

– Vehicle to Vehicle communication – this leads to cooperation between the vehicles which further leads to fluid flow of vehicles within a city with least traffic jams.

– Vehicle to Infrastructure communication – Traffic lights is one thing that has always irritated me, we have moved on with the best technology in everything from phones, rocket science to cars, traffic lights remain locked in the 70s. If the vehicle is able to communicate with the traffic signal that it is at a junction and there are no vehicles on the other side, it can now prioritize how vehicles flow.

– Smarter Cities – many cities use mass transit as it is more affordable to the masses, what if we can combine ride sharing app technology and mass transit. A person steps into the bus stop and opens his/her watch/phone and clicks for a ride, we can now increase the frequency in that particular route by using real time data. 5G will provide a base for internet of things.

– Bandwidth – I’m sure all of us would have experienced call drops and sudden drop in signals, especially in densely populated down-towns. With 5G moving to higher bandwidth, this can be the solution to address that problem.

Few questions that remain open are:

– What standards does the industry adopt to ? Today 4G is a mess with all kinds of technology that is bundled in as 4G. This raises the cost price now as companies must have multiple power consuming radios to communicate.

– How will roaming work ? This plays a critical role especially in autonomous vehicles which cross international borders

– How much chunk of frequency will the governments allot to 5G, this will play a major role in how effective it would be?

With Verizon, Nokia, Vodafone and many other companies conducting some level of trials for 5G and car companies working with autonomous vehicles, if both converge they can use each others technology to leverage, leading to a win-win situation. The future of this magical moment might just a knock away.