LAS VEGAS -- Volkswagen plans to equip its family of I.D. electric cars with next-generation 5G mobile connectivity and cellular vehicle-to-everything communication standards as the brand prepares to offer full autonomous driving functionality in 2025.
The first of its purpose-built EVs, a compact-sized hatchback based on the I.D. concept unveiled at the Paris auto show in October, will launch in 2020, with an SUV following closely after and in 2022 a microbus MPV.
Since VW first began embedding connectivity features four years ago, about 2.1 million Volkswagen vehicles already offer online services designed to improve safety and comfort. This is expected to grow with the advent of ultrafast download speeds. As cars begin to take over more and more driving tasks from humans, they will need to continuously process data provided from the surrounding environment.
While much of that is generated from onboard sensors such as high resolution cameras and LiDAR sensors, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication is vital for piloted driving since it can relay critical information from its surroundings beyond the line of sight.
“All future solutions for individual mobility rely on the ability to handle large amounts of data inside and outside the car,” VW’s head of electronics development, Volkmar Tanneberger, said at this month's CES technology trade show. “5G is the key enabling technology to accommodate big data, enhance the user experience and transform the transportation system as a whole.”
The 5G revolution
Tanneberger was speaking during a keynote presentation held by partner Qualcomm, which debuted a new flagship processing chip called the Snapdragon 835 that will be rolled out in the first half of 2017. The U.S. technology supplier already plans to launch trial deployments of 5G mobile communication standards starting this year together with companies like AT&T and Ericsson.
“5G will have an impact similar to the introduction of electricity or the automobile,” said Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf. “In 2035 when 5G’s full economic benefit should be realized across the globe, a broad range of industries from retail to education, transportation to entertainment, and everything in between could produce up to $12 trillion worth of goods and services enabled by 5G.”
For the moment ultrafast data transfer speeds needed for the Internet of Things (IoT) are hindered by a lack of available bandwidth, in other words the spectrum measured in hundreds or thousands of megahertz at which carrier waves convey information.
Since most mobile telecommunications piggyback on the same narrow set of frequencies allocated by governments, this will only become a bigger issue in the future when the IoT connects billions of intelligent devices found in cars, homes and offices.
Collecting data and detecting hazards beyond the line of sight pose an additional challenge. By picking cellular V2X as its standard, Volkswagen decided against the competing DSRC, a short-range wireless technology that requires the deployment of its own dedicated infrastructure along roadways as opposed to utilizing existing cellular networks. Qualcomm paired with Volkswagen’s sister brand Audi to pilot cellular V2X in Germany starting this year.
In the more immediate future, VW’s Tanneberger confirmed the brand would soon offer a new online connectivity unit featuring the Qualcomm Snapdragon X12 Modem, which enables mobile communications using 4G’s LTE standard with data rates of up to 600 megabits per second for download speeds.