Car manufacturers are very likely to be major customers for next-generation telecoms networks, helping to boom investment in 5G, but they will need to have more innovative ideas and concept, if the technology is to take off, said Spain’s SEAT.
The 5G communication technology is said to be able to link everything from vehicles to household appliances, which will require huge investment however, and the telecoms industry is trying to reach a consensus on whether and how 5G can drive enough innovations to be profitable.
Luca de Meo, chief executive of SEAT affiliated with Volkswagen, said applications are now “pretty limited”, before unveiling what he described as Europe’s first 5G-connected concept car at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
He said connecting a vehicle with a passenger’s mobile phone, or external infrastructure or retailers, could possibly lead to a deluge of transactions.
“I think personally the automotive industry will play a big role in justifying the investment so we will be one of the big customers but we need to be creative,” said De Meo.
“We need to experiment and look at functionalities and hopefully the market will say, OK, I want to buy a car like this because it can prevent an accident or it can see around the corner and I value that and I [will] pay for it,” he added.
5G will play an important part in developing unmanned driving step by step, where the costs of installing sensor technology are already brought down, De Meo said, adding the market is expected to have a scale valued at as much as $95 billion in 2020.
But ethical questions, relevant infrastructure and how traditional vehicles will coexist with unmanned ones make it hard to say when the market will gain momentum.
SEAT expects the next version of the Minimo concept car, an electric model in which one passenger sits behind the driver, to be equipped for autonomous “L4” driving.
“We see the potential in the car-sharing platform,” De Meo said, adding costs could be cut 50 percent if cars could be tracked, did not have to be moved and were always running so that no payment is needed for parking.
In Barcelona, SEAT tested systems like putting thermal cameras in traffic lights to probe presence and moving of pedestrians and collect the feedback data.
Data volume a car can potentially yield is as much as that almost 3,000 smartphones can, so cars should be “pillars” of the Internet of Things, whereby everyday objects are connected by chips so that they can communicate with each other.