Most aftermarket retailers are keenly aware of JBL, which is part of Harman. But many people do not recognize that Harman is also very involved in creating OEM infotainment and safety systems. Some of them use connectivity and telematics to communicate with the environment, which is called V2X. Samsung saw the value in what Harman was doing, and purchased the company about three years ago. Since then, the two companies were able to pool together their tremendous engineering horsepower and further engage the telematics industry.
The New Frontier: 5G and What it Means in the Car
We were able to speak to Ramaswamy Iyer, the head of Connected Infrastructure Business for Harman, and Tim VanGoethem, vice president of Advaced Mobility Solutions. VanGoethem explained there are five components Harman is considering with the move to 5G connectivity and using the technology for the car. The first is lower latency compared to 4G. This will make it possible for enhanced ADAS Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and the ability for vehicle to communicate with each other. There will be higher speeds, more capacity and less energy used. Finally, there will be a higher density of data that is able to be transmitted.
Harman is taking advantage of network slicing in 5G in the automotive space. As most of us have not heard that term before, it can be defined as a network configuration that allows multiple networks to be created on top of a common physical infrastructure. A ‘slice’ of the network can be allotted to the specific needs of the application. This helps with reducing latency that will eventually help drive us to autonomous cars. As it was explained, electric cars users have range anxiety. Autonomous car users will have potential connectivity anxiety for safety.
Iyer notes, “It is not just about radio access technology, but the service. There will be a cost to data consumption at this level. Most consumers are expecting the price to not be any more than 4G. So, we have that as a baseline. But consumers will be willing to pay more if they consume more. This is the opportunity. So, consumption will go up. But how can we alter consumer spending patterns? Think about it – we all started on the Internet for around $20 a month, and now we are paying around $60 a month. It is not because the product changed; it is because our consumption went up.”
5G requires a completely different topological thinking. Automotive-enabled 5G operators are going to have to share each other’s real estate – especially in the name of safety. There will be more information in Location Based Services to help consumers understand their environment. There are 5G potential solutions for hazard warnings, speed limit warnings and toll payments. To make this happen, Harman is working on a new technology known as Edge computing. Van Goethem says: “Edge computing involves more distributed architectures so we can distribute the computational load around the system. There will be data centers before the information goes up into the cloud. There will be something known as Roadside Edge Nodes. The vehicles using 5G and Roadside Edge Nodes will have more robust data by limiting the path length needed to complete the service. We can have augmented computing power right next to the car. We then really exploit the bandwidth and low-latency of 5G.” In other words, rather than have the car communicate with the cloud, the car only needs to talk to a roadside unit that may just be 50 feet away. This decreases latency and helps deliver more data to the car. “One of the things we are doing in our Roadside Edge Nodes,” Iyer says, “is making it like a 5G bridge. We want the end user or vehicle to have the data through the node. It binds other vehicles to the network. We look for emerging traffic patterns, and that data can be captured in a roadside edge node.” This data can then be used for autonomous vehicles. “When we get everything together, that is when the true power of 5G can be unlocked.”
V2X was born out of the tolling world. Audi was one of the first manufacturers to offer toll payment technology built into the infotainment system. Harman will have a hand in future toll payment systems using 5G. Iyer notes: “What is a consumer looking for when they are on the road? I live in California where there are freeways and toll lanes and they are constantly changing. The consumers are coming from a world where they were used to free lanes, not toll lanes. Now you want the consumer to adopt toll lanes for various reasons. But it has to be done with predictability and alleviate problems from the process.” Ultimately, 5G has the ability to allow the consumer to spend money to go on a road with less traffic and shorten their commute. In the consumer’s mind, this is money well spent. Iyer continues, “It will become a government issue on how to add lanes and remove lanes dynamically. Sometimes these lanes are marked for a certain time of the day. 5G will allow the prioritization of traffic and unlock the potential of the tolling process. The Roadside Edge Nodes will help deliver the data for road demand.” When it all comes together, we have the potential for autonomous vehicles and human-driven vehicles sharing the road, with dynamically changing lanes to maximize safety and reduce traffic. The computational horsepower needed to put it all together necessitates 5G. We are confident we will see 5G-enabled products make themselves to the aftermarket. After all, who wouldn’t want a head unit that can allow the driver access to a special lane and pay the toll for the privilege, all on-the-fly! Iyer summed up the on-the-fly reference by drawing from the avionics industry. He says, “There are enough onboard sensors on aircraft to get from point A to point B safely, but more information from 5G adds greater predictability and enhanced safety.” Harnessing elements from other network elements from 5G will help keep us all safer and reduce traffic.