Mention 5G, and everyone's mind's eye goes to the phone, right?
We think of 5G and mobile and phones all in one basket.
Yes, it will be nice to have 5G's increased performance to load streaming media better and see social posts faster.
But, I suggest there's a better payload for 5G, and it's out there On our roads.
In fact, I would tell you 5G's biggest medium term impact is automotive, not mobile.
And here's why.
Let's say cars didn't exist today and I called you into a meeting here at Cnet cuz I got this idea For cars, I would sketch them out like so.
Remember, clean sheet.
You've never thought of them before.
I would tell you that they are on wheels and weigh about 3,000 pounds each.
They're pretty fast.
They can do about 60 miles an hour or more, frequently more.
And they are basically unaware of things around them, including other cars.
Objects and you, on foot.
They are controlled a little bit by people who sit in front of a big plastic hoop and operate pedals down on the floor, not unlike that found underneath a 19th century weaver's loom.
You Send me back to my office at best, maybe down to HR to get my final check.
And yet, this is basically the world we live in.
Allowing cars to talk to each other, for the first time is a really big deal.
Starting with one we can all understand, crash prevention.
Vehicle to vehicle communications will let cars signal their location and trajectory to each other.
That will help ensure that no two cars occupy the same place at the same time.
That's known as a collision.
Humans handle that today but very fallibly And can't do it at all in some scenarios.
Like two cars coming from different sides to a corner, with a building in between them.
Then there's navigational intelligence.
Today as we drive around no matter how much of your phone nav you might be using, or in car dash nav, you're kinda of in a data tunnel Fairly isolated.
With 5G we'll take all of that information we just talked about location, and trajectory.
Add that to destination, progress, and conditions around each car, and then overlay that with information from merchants and services about what is available.
Where we are, or Or near us, in real time.
And suddenly we've had to change driving from a whole bunch of faith-based behaviors, into a new, sort of data bathed experience that makes the process more efficient, makes the process, hopefully, a little more satisfying, and, basically, exposes us To all the data relevant to why we're in the car.
And if that sounds all like maybe some day sorta kinda, know that there's an unprecedented effort by the automotive industry to be part of 5G from the very beginning, it's the 5G Automotive Association, and it's a more robust automotive interest in mobile and wireless than I've ever seen in the industries before.
5G is being lit up now.
T Mobile has announced the most ambitious initial build out, promising 30 US cities upgraded to 5G in 2018.
But 2019 will be the year that all carriers need to fully activate 5G, beyond one offering portable 5G hotspots, another offering 5G service to the home.
And all of them waiting for the first 5G phones, mid 2019.
All of those less mission critical devices debug the network for the arrival of 5G and cars.
Then there's traffic flow.
Next time you're sitting at a signal and it finally turns green and if you're third or fourth back, YOu notice how long it takes for you to start moving.
That's because it's a festival of human latency.
Long lag reactions times that stack up.
You might not even make your light.
With five G we can put cars together in rigidly coupled virtual road trains.
So as soon as the first one moves, they all move and block.
That same road train concept, thanks for five g, can also support group braking and other maneuvers.
As well as converting traffic signals from a lamp that humans guess the change of to a precise data stream that vehicles will know.
It all leads to cars getting their job done with less wasted space between them and less chaos on the road.
Less lofty but still lovely benefits of 5G in cars will include a fat enough pipe to power more dynamic screens around the vehicle, making it almost one big interactive interface.
And that fat bandwidth and low latency are essential for companies like Phantom Auto that are planning remote-controlled driving technology.
And even pedestrian tricks like unlocking your car with your phone could be made more interesting when they always work.
Thanks a 5G network that is supposed to deliver 5 9s of reliability.
Still not as reliable as a car key, but close enough to not ruin the bells and whistles.
Now why aren't we doing all this with 4G?
Because of it's high latency.
That's the time it takes for a signal to handshake from one device to another.
On 4G, that average is 50 to maybe 100 milliseconds in the real world, where 5G promises at least to get down to one to three milliseconds.
Critical for an application, where a late signal can be accompanied by the sound of bending metal or broken bones.
Competing with 5G for this role, however, is a variant of Wi-Fi called 802.11-P.
They use the fastest Wi-Fi for the car [UNKNOWN] signals and then falls back on laggier 4G for anything that has to go to the cloud.
Even if you're convinced like I am, that what 5G bring to the road is more important than what brings to the palm in your hand, it's still gonna take longer to get out here.
First of all, most cars today don't even come with a 4G radio, let alone a 5G radio, which is yet to be specced for in-car use.
And secondly we turn over our phones much faster, even at a slow 32 months average ownership, that's way shorter than what?
About seven years for the average car?
Nonetheless, when 5G hits the road, it will have really arrived.
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