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Automotive experts look to 5G to help support safe, secure autonomous driving

As connectivity with higher speeds and lower latency comes to market with the introduction of 5G, we’re seeing excitement mount surrounding the potential for connected and automated vehicles. Much of this is in its infancy but car OEMs are preparing now to integrate advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) into the next generation vehicles. At the same time, they are working out how to integrate these with telematics systems and to ensure the safety and security of the new systems.

“The interest is picking up quite widely,” confirms Manfred Lindacher, the vice president of sales for international automotive markets at Quectel Wireless Solutions. “All OEMs are currently thinking about ADAS. But there is still a way to go regarding bringing the right regulations on a global base into position. To give you an example, Daimler recently launched the S-class, which is already prepared for certain ADAS levels, which from a regulation perspective, are not allowed to be activated at the moment. That’ll hopefully come sooner or later to enable people to really use the full power of such autonomous driving capabilities but, in general, the capabilities of 5G for certain applications are still not widely available.”

Alexander Wiefett, a purchasing director at tier one automotive OEM, Valeo, recognises the complexity. “This kind of fusion of capabilities creates much more complexity not only on the software, but also on the hardware side,” he says. “If you relate that to ADAS Level 4, which is close to fully autonomous, features like an HD map cannot be stored in the car anymore, because you need to have this continuously updated. It’s therefore necessary and mandatory to connect not only car-to-car but also to connect the vehicle to the back end.”

Lindacher expects continued 5G roll-out to help address the challenges of continuous, ubiquitous connectivity but sees other challenges affecting development. “There is quite a bit of complexity because we’re talking here about safety relevant functionalities,” he adds. “We are bringing the connectivity functionality into complex fusion in ECUs which are as well connected to all the other sensors, like cameras and radar and LIDAR sensors, which are used for autonomous driving. This will make the complexity hard to handle on the software and hardware side and we will a high requirement for safety as well as cybersecurity because those cars will be connected to the outside world.”

Wiefett agrees, “Security is one important topic and safety is another ,” he says. “The safety aspect is something you have to prioritize from the functionality point of view to ensure that all the systems work properly and accurately. It’s credible to imagine that, for example, an autonomous braking system could fail and crash the car while you’re travelling at 120mph on the highway. This would be the worst case scenario.”

“Safety is therefore an important aspect alongside the whole security discussion which also must be highlighted,” he adds. “It somehow needs to be established that all the systems are working hand in hand and don’t influence each other in a negative way, which also ensures that the safety aspect is addressed. Therefore you need to ensure that that your rules are in a kind of security watchdog position, that is put in place to ensure safety and that the hardware is solid enough and also redundant enough. I think that is very important to ensure a properly working system.”

OEMs are at the cutting edge of introducing new autonomous and connected driving capabilities, but the priority has to be safety and security alongside achieving longevity and good customer experiences at a realistic cost. Both Valeo and Quectel are pushing forward to enable autonomy safely and securely in the future.