With the UK’s 5G rollout now delayed following the government announcement on Huawei equipment, autonomous driving now seems even further away.
Delays to self-driving cars inevitable
The rollout of the new 5G network is set to be delayed by two to three years and at a cost of some £2bn following the recent government announcement that Huawei equipment will be removed from the nation’s infrastructure by 2027.
So, whilst connectivity and digitisation was the top automotive trend in the 20th KPMG Global Automotive Executive Survey (GAES), the self-driving car, reliant on a sophisticated 5G network, already a long way off before the 5G-Huawei debacle, will inevitably face more delay.
Semi-autonomy and what you can do now
Despite that, today’s vehicles have varying levels of connection with technology capable of undertaking various tasks such as parking and starting the car’s engine remotely using a smartphone. Meanwhile, semi-autonomous capabilities such as automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, blindspot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and cross-traffic alert are common features on modern vehicles, all of which are essential stepping stones on the journey to autonomous driving.
The connected car today
Connected cars are already assisting motorists with a wide range of potentially useful functions such as the sat-nav system providing real-time traffic alerts whilst smartphone apps can be used for a variety of tasks like starting the car’s engine remotely to defrost on a cold winter’s morning. Some manufacturers also operate concierge services enabling the motorist to speak to a customer service agent to arrange anything from locating car parks to booking tables at restaurants.
The modern car can create WiFi hotspots providing 4G internet access for passengers, particularly useful for long journeys. These systems can also be utilised to book the car’s routine service and, in some cases, to perform remote fault diagnosis on the car.
Looking to the future
Eventually, self-driving cars will use information from both the car’s onboard technology and infrastructure such as traffic lights, road signs, lane markings and roadwork sites as well as communicating with other vehicles on the road to function effectively and safely.
Whilst the delay in 5G rollout may hinder the adoption of increasingly autonomous vehicle functions, there could be another silver lining. The former director of GCHQ Robert Hannigan told Radio 4 that the UK’s laissez faire attitude to foreign takeovers had harmed the prospects of its homegrown telecoms companies opening the floodgates to the likes of Huawei.
Could Huawei’s demise in the UK pave the way for the re-emergence of the UK’s telecoms sector, even ultimately developing the infrastructure to make autonomous vehicles a reality?