5G can’t help us shed the sheer weight of traffic, but we can learn to love our bodywork

Nick Booth, freelance IT and communications writer

Speed won’t help your connected car get there sooner but, says technology writer Nick Booth, the journey will be so nice you won’t care. There’s an argument that there are diminishing returns on speed.

Concorde might have knocked six hours off the flight time to New York, but few people were prepared to pay a king’s ransom to get that time back.

Many are questioning the logic of spending £50 billion(US$ 62.35 billion) on a high-speed rail network just to get from Big Town One to Big Town Two ten minutes earlier. By the same token, doubling the speed of the mobile network doesn’t bring a noticeable return to users. They won’t recognise the value of shaving a millisecond off the load time of their favourite web site. Not even millennials will pay extra for that – and that’s a group with proven levels of gullibility!

And yet there is a growing body of evidence that when we move up a gear and run 5G networks, the connected car will come of age. Not because we’ll get there any quicker. It’s that the journey won’t feel so awful.

The GSMA promises to set out all these arguments in a series of reports on 5G, network slicing and the connected car times for Mobile World Congress 2017.

The design of Jaguar cars, which feature heavily in one report, has changed as a result of 5G. Three years ago Jaguar didn’t employ a single person with networking or IT skills in its assembly lines. Now it has a special department with 28 people working on applications alone. There’s another 400 working on a mysterious quality that Jaguar calls infotainment.

What would Jeremy Clarkson have said about this? Cars are surely sold on their physical attributes. The shape of the body. The way they hug the curves in the road. The raw power beneath you as you thunder from one traffic light to the next.

Not any more, apparently. There’s no point building a faster car – not that that will stop them – because speed doesn’t make any difference now. The engine isn’t the differentiator these days. It’s the route you take that makes all the difference and the logic of your routing choice is determined by constantly shifting variables, such as road closures, crashes and organised mass gatherings.

There are information systems in place now, but there are blockages. The UK Highways Agency accepts incoming intelligence about events, such as a motorway at a complete standstill. But it doesn’t pass this information on to the nation’s broadcasters for at least an hour, by which time you are already trapped in the jam that they are now warning you about.

The mobile app Waze, a sort of satnav disruptor, is an improvement. It can instantly work out alternative routes using satellite information and algorithms. The routes are a bit odd, but at least it’s far more up to date than the Stone Age Highways Agency.

The real beauty of the connected car will be the intelligence it offers on a variety of levels. To communicate with a human most effectively, you have to appeal to all five of their senses. To paraphrase the American writer Maya Angelou, people won’t remember what you tell them but nobody forgets how you made them feel.

Which is why the adverts, novels and films that arouse the strongest emotions are those that describe and appeal to your senses of smell, sight, sound, touch and even taste.

Similarly, connected cars aren’t moved by a single stimulus. They want to connect on so many levels. They’re excited by the feel of a freshly sliced fifth generation network. Now Jaguars can ‘sniff’ each other out (on special communities), they can see the journey, they can hear the noise of other vehicles of the waves and, in the case of the new Fill Up and Go service being developed, the Jag can satisfy its thirst for petrol.

My appetite for this subject was whetted by the news that SK Telecom, Ericsson and BMW Korea recently managed to fire 3.6Gb of data per second at the dashboard of a Beemer hurtling past at 170 kilometres per hour.

Though the three companies created the world’s largest mmWave 5G trial network and demonstrated the world’s first 5G-based connected car in November 2016, they admit there’s still much to be done. The connected car is regarded as the barometer for 5G as it can only be achieved through the combination of all 5G technologies.

It’s so close you can almost smell it!

The author of this blog is Nick Booth, freelance IT and communications writer.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_ OR @jcIoTnow

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