5G may be more hype than reality at present, but as it becomes more readily available, it will offer new opportunities for public transport. We looked at the three main characteristics of 5G that will make a difference.
This is an extract from: Digitalization of Public Transport in the Nordics & Baltics. You can download the full report here.
Higher device density
5G will support many more connections in a given area than ever before – up to a million devices per square kilometer as opposed to a few thousand today. In a city context, this means every ‘thing’ can be connected: road sensors, parking spaces, traffic lights. Essentially, anything that generates data will be connectable.
Many of the data sources will only provide small amounts of data. For example, a parking space only needs to report if it is vacant or full. For these purposes, the 5G standard includes two Low-Power-Wide-Area (LPWA) connectivity types (NB-IoT and LTE-M) that can connect over long distances and deep underground and have a battery life of up to 10 years.
Higher data rates
When all of the devices in a city have been connected, small amounts of data will result in massive data feed. This is when 5G’s speed benefits will kick in. To put 5G’s data rates into perspective, people’s mobile phones will only be able to use a tiny fraction of 5G’s capabilities. When everything you do on your phone is instant with no perceptible load time, you don’t need faster than that. Taken a step further, a single 5G-enabled onboard WiFi gateway will let an entire bus or train load of commuters streaming in high definition, game interactively, or even explore other worlds using mobile virtual reality – without buffering, glitching or ever making them wait.
The only thing that will come close to using 5G’s full data capabilities will be when millions of sensors and data sources are combined to enable real-time-big-data analysis. Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications will be able to combine data from all of a city’s sources: from low-data carpark sensors to high-definition traffic analysis cameras. They will then be able to enable real-time traffic management systems.
Gridlock and traffic jams could become a thing of the past with traffic management systems that adapt to the real-time situation and control the flow of traffic. By altering the stop/go sequence of traffic lights, traffic flows could be regulated and dynamic speed limits used to slow traffic throughout the system rather than having bottlenecks that stop it completely. Real-time traffic management systems will also make it easier to provide traffic prioritization for public transport and make it a more attractive choice
Autonomous buses are already in operation in locations across the Nordics and Baltics. These use local sensors in the vehicle to sense and react. By adding the capabilities of AI, these vehicles will be able to integrate with the traffic system. In order to interact with the real world, they will need to interact with cloud platforms in real time. 5G will deliver the ultra-low latency to enable this. Situation-based decision-making by cloud-based AI algorithms will help to make autonomous vehicles safer and make public transport systems more efficient and reliable.
Watch the video: 5G Ride: a pilot project testing 5G remote monitoring for self-driving vehicles
Public transport on demand
When these 5G characteristics are combined, real-time information flows will enable ‘on demand’ public transport services. Commuters will notify where they want to be picked up from and where they are going via their mobile app. Then a network of autonomous vehicles will follow dynamically created routes to collect passengers in the most effective pattern and take them to their destinations. This will be some-what similar to the ‘airport shuttle’ concept that is common today, but enabling real-time rerouting and serving many different destinations.
Download the full report