The 6G vision was a bit warm and fuzzy, talking of noble causes such as focusing on our societal needs, but it is now becoming more concrete.
A project at the University of Texas is bringing together a strong team to build a 6G environment that is far more than just a fast, low latency network. Its starting point is to bring together an intelligent ‘sensing’ environment with ultra-reliable speed. Effectively, it will bring together several technologies that are now ‘coming of age,’ for instance, machine learning, AR and autonomous cars.
According to Todd Humphreys, associate professor in UT Austin’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, “6G should begin with the premise that sensing is not just for reacting to conditions, but anticipating them, so that vital links to automated vehicles, AR/VR headsets, and other latency-sensitive applications can be maintained with utter reliability.”
He also added that “5G’s vision of sensing has been insufficiently bold.”
6G, it seems, is what 5G is failing to be. The new G will have the advances in AI and machine learning built-in, will not, thank goodness, be just about ultra-fast connectivity but be about intelligent reliability.
If that is the case, does that mean that the industry has quietly realised that the dream of autonomous cars, originally built on the hype of 5G, will now have to wait for 6G to come true?
As Wasim Haider of MTN Consulting points out, the autonomous car ecosystem is extraordinarily complex, and while he is upbeat about 5G being the vital connectivity piece of the puzzle, you have to wonder whether such complexity can be as good as it needs to be for autonomous cars to work reliably enough all the time.
If we will have to wait for 6G to make the autonomous car a reality, then that means a wait of at least eight years, probably more, before we have ignition. Of course, there will be areas where 5G becomes good enough, but it will not be ubiquitous in the same way that 6G promises to be.
If autonomous cars do have to wait for 6G, then the sector will lose a lot of time and a lot of investment.