5G self-driving cars talk to each other in SK Telecom test

5G self-driving cars SKT
Image credit: SK Telecom

SK Telecom and the Korean Transportation Safety Authority (TS) announced that two 5G self-driving cars successfully performed “cooperative driving,” where traffic information was effectively shared between the two vehicles.

The test was conducted in K-City, the pilot city for self-driving tests located in Hwaseong, where SK Telecom – in partnership with TS and Samsung Electronics – has deployed a 28-GHz 5G network. Traffic related infrastructure such as CCTV cameras and traffic lights have been linked to self-driving cars and control centers via the 5G network.

During the driving trial, two vehicles utilized 5G-based V2X (Vehicle to Everything) technology, a 3D HD map, and deep-learning-based decision-making technology to communicate with each other, and share traffic information with the control center and traffic lights. In the end, the vehicles safely completed driving on K-City’s 2km track, which includes a school zone, crossroads and a highway.

When the cars perceived a school zone area, they automatically slowed down. When a life-size model of a child appeared on the road, a CCTV installed on a streetlight immediately sent a message to the nearby self-driving vehicle. Upon receiving the message, the vehicle instantly stopped and started driving only after it was confirmed that the “child” was not on the road. This showed that 5G’s ultra-low-latency of less than 1ms of response time can help prevent traffic accidents.

The vehicles received information on highway construction from the control center and adjusted their driving routes. They also raised their speed to 60 km/h when they entered the highway. When a vehicle detected a multiple vehicle collision, it sent an instant report of the accident to the car behind and to the control center. This allowed the car behind to drop its speed and change its lane and safely drive through the accident scene.

When two cars simultaneously arrived at a crossroads with no traffic sign, they communicated with each other and with the control center to decide which one should first pass through the congested area.

The self-driving cars communicated more than 100 times per second with the control center and each other to minimize the risk of accidents on the road.

The demonstration used an HD map that precisely depicted nearby traffic signs and lights, and information on K-City’s driving lanes within centimeter-level accuracy. When the self-driving cars were on the move, various driving information, including nearby vehicle’s real-time location, traffic light signal and traffic information, highway construction and accidents were displayed on the HD map in real-time. The autonomous cars made decisions while driving based on various information it had received from the HD map. SK Telecom said the map, combined with 5G V2X, also works even in bad weather conditions and at night when camera and sensor technologies might not function properly.

SK Telecom has co-developed AI technology that helps self-driving cars make decisions on its own with Seoul National University and Nvidia. With the technology, the operator says, autonomous cars can make decisions ranging from changing lanes and controlling speed, to making detours based on information and AI analysis obtained via the 5G network.

SK Telecom added it will soon deploy its quantum technology-based security module on autonomous vehicles for added protection against outside attempts to hack communications between self-driving cars and the control center or IoT devices.

SK Telecom said this is the first time that a multiple number of 5G autonomous cars drove in coordination while monitoring each other’s route and observing road safety. SK Telecom plans to introduce its self-driving technology on South Korea’s main highways utilizing its 5G network, in 2019.

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