5G — The Self-Driven Car

In this second installment about 5G technology, we will examine the exciting technology behind the “self-driving car” and future businesses in light of both Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G. 

What If

What would you give to avoid unproductive time in traffic, the risk of accidents, the stress and all the ill that comes from being stuck in a car? The premise of self-driving cars sounds like the correct solution for the problem, assuming that you must travel to work or to a meeting and you need a car to get there.

The basic assumption that drives the self-driving car business is that a car can mimic the human brain and act faster and better than a person in critical situations. We like to imagine the self-driving car as self-sufficient such that it can come to the door when requested pick us up and safely deliver us to our intended destination. This concept is driving new business models in which we (people) no longer own cars, truck delivery fleets, boats, or drones; rather, operating or service companies that provide us with these vehicles. New businesses that will negotiate the best services, fares and manage our complete transportation budget will emerge and this new economy around transportation will flourish. 

In this segment about potential 5G impacts, we will examine the economy around the self-driving car and suggest that 5G will excite a shift from “self-driving” to “self-driven” and some combination of the two will compete in the coming years.

We start with a casual problem, a split-second decision that we all may face at one time or another when driving.

The Situation

I just took a right turn onto a narrow street driving 20 mph (or so I think). I noticed myself too close to a woman who was getting into a car on my right. My mind tells me that she is going to open the door to her car and I need to move to the left to give her some space when this kid came out of nowhere, chasing a ball in front of me. I panic – my heart is drumming in my throat and I get this strong sinking sensation in my stomach. I slam the breaks and veer hard to my left. The child running after the ball has now hit my car as I come to a halting stop.   The bicyclist, who came fast from my blind spot on my left hits the front left side of my car and is knocked down. The car is at a complete stop with chaos unfolding around us…. In this case, I was lucky, very lucky indeed, no one died yet a child and bicyclist left the scene with minor injuries.

What would I give to avoid this accident? How many nights will I stay awake trying to figure out what I could have done differently to avoid this accident and come up with nothing?

The premise of the self-driving car is that issues like this are avoided. The car will somehow solve this problem and will be safe, yet I know that this is hardly true. There are enough corner cases that we can not imagine or train a car to handle. Cases in which it will need to make life and death decisions. Do we rather have a car driven by an AI make this decision or a human?! I am not certain that we have a good answer. Instead, why not figure out a system that reduces the chances of problems in the first place?

I would stipulate that the solution is not a “self-driving car” but a “self-driven car”.  

A New Possibility

A self-driven car is a car with no brain, for example, a car without an AI inside. This type of car is operated by an AI outside of the car who can and will operate multiple cars at any given moment. This centralized or cloud-based AI will be connected with multiple input drones and sensors all around the city. Additionally, it will be able to calculate risks and move cars in the safest  possible way and safest speeds according to and depending on its risk assessments.

In the scenario of the self-driven car, we have now taken the AI out of the car  and placed it in a more centralized location where it can have access to more real-time data. By incorporating sensors, cameras, and drones to be present in and around the scene, the centralized AI will have advanced notice and enough information about the situation way ahead of the self-driving car which is supposed to make a right turn onto this street.

From an economic aspect, the self-driven car needs one AI for hundreds of cars. Cars will become a simple and low-cost device while easy to maintain and update.  These cost savings will translate to more efficient operations and better-operating companies.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Market

The only problem that we are facing with the self-driven car is the need for split-second communication between the many sensors and the vehicles that it controls; this is where 5G comes to the rescue. 5G can support very high speeds of data with up to a 1-millisecond delay. The centralized AI will ‘see’ the woman parking her car, the child playing with a ball and the bicyclist on the way. This AI will significantly slow down my vehicle (eg. 1-5 mph) in anticipation of these unpredictable factors on the road to allow all participants to come out unscathed.

Moving away from ‘self-driving cars’ to ‘self-driven cars’ we also enable a new business model in which a transportation company owns cars and a dedicated 5G spectrum to handle the control and information dissemination to and from, cars, sensors, drones, and other infrastructure static and dynamic elements.

The reason I am suggesting that car fleet management companies will own spectrum is to make sure that they get enough bandwidth to handle their need with relying on the local cellular companies to handle it correctly. Unlike mobile communications, vehicle fleet management will become a utility and mission-critical. 

In Conclusion

While the future of 5G doesn’t have one set path, companies can be proactive in their approach to its possibilities. 5G presents an opportunity for companies to adjust their focus towards new value propositions that will change the way consumers live, work, and play. This is a very exciting and fruitful future for companies and users. The possibilities and the variable impacts provide an excuse for creatives and strategists to envision and devise new ways. 

Companies that effectively create and protect those innovative value propositions are the next unicorns. While they benefit the most from what 5G has to offer, others will show up and vanish quickly. Understanding the interplay between self-driving and self-driven and how the economy shifts are yet another subtle key to the future of transportation, spectrum control, federal laws, and local ordinance.

In all, 5G is just a vehicle that empowers new opportunities for those who can see it…and the clock is ticking. A brave new world is in the making… will today’s top companies maintain top status in the marketplace or bottom out? 


Also published on Medium.