Column: What 5G Innovation Manager Matthias Jungen hopes to get from the 5G network on and off the roads.
Somehow, among my group of friends, we have made it a kind of sport to make long-term bets. They mostly revolve around the subject of digitalisation. We discuss what the medium- and long-term possibilities might be. For example, how we will travel with ease to the remotest of places using autonomous vehicles and personal drones. I don’t remember whether the discussions about the bets arose out of pure curiosity or from our joint interest in new technologies.
Optimising traffic flow using autonomous control
Even though my traditional rustico country house in Ticino does not have ideal transport links, I mostly travel there by public transport. It’s just less stressful. However, if I have a lot of luggage with me, I sometimes wish that a driverless car would take me to Ticino. That would also be stress-free – and autonomous vehicles could reduce lots of traffic problems.
Autonomous and smart vehicles
If vehicles are going to be on the move autonomously in the future, they will need to use a whole bundle of different technologies. These include sensors which recognise road signs and GPS for location identification and navigation. The vehicles will also communicate with each other – to warn about icy roads or traffic congestion, for example. The autopilot can then react to the situation quickly and safely. A network would be needed for this, which can transmit information from a large number of road users with practically no delay in transmission. The 5G network provides exactly these properties.
The Swiss parliament is currently debating about having six-lane motorways, to minimise congestion. But would these still be needed in the future, if autonomous control optimises traffic flow by reducing the distance between cars? Because the vehicles communicate with each other via the 5G network in real time, the smart control system could react quickly to any situation and adjust the speed. Or a smart car-sharing model could make better use of private transport and reduce the number of vehicles which are out and about on our roads.
Using personal drones to open up access to new areas
When I have arrived towards the end of the valley in Ticino, I then tackle the arduous journey through the forest and up the mountain on foot. At the moment, that’s no problem – I enjoy the walk. But if I think ahead a little to the future, this walk could become quite torturous when I am older, especially in the summer heat. And particularly as I am fully loaded with clothes and food.
By the time I reach retirement age, a personal drone will fly me directly from the train station to the rustico. It will receive all its control information in real time via the 5G network, so that I can just enjoy the view. I am convinced this will happen, otherwise I wouldn’t have made a bet on it.