The Possible Highs and Lows of 5G for Self-Driving Vehicles


When you use your smartphone’s mobile data, you’ll notice a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols flashing on your notification bar. That set of characters tells you the generation of mobile data you’re accessing. If you got your phone in the last five years, you’ll at least see “4G” or “LTE.” With a bad signal, you’ll go as low as “3G.” The higher the generation, the faster the connection.

Now, telecom companies are getting ready to make the switch to 5G. Proponents of 5G claim that its blazing fast speed (about 100 times faster than today’s 4G LTE) will drastically improve tech that needs to be constantly connected to the internet — from the average smartphone to self-driving cars.

Connectivity Challenges for Self-Driving Vehicles

Experts say that 5G’s reduced latency will benefit self-driving cars the most. This is because safety is a huge factor in automated vehicles. A connection with high latency causes cars to receive commands late. And when it comes to driving, a split-second delay could mean injury or worse — death.

Apart from the fast speeds and reduced lag coming from 5G, Global Positioning System (GPS) and Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) are vulnerable to interference and hacking. In fact, an attack on vehicle GPS in Russia almost drove citizens off a cliff. This is why experts continue to use interference generators to test navigation problems.

A Closer Look at Vehicle Navigation Issues

The biggest threats to vehicle navigation systems are jamming and spoofing. Jamming occurs when a car gets flooded with signals and gets blocked off or receives incomplete information about the road. To make matters worse, attackers can also render an autonomous car completely blind by jamming the vehicle’s sensors or radar.

Spoofing happens when a car gets false navigation information. Attackers can prompt GPS and sensors to think that there’s an object blocking their way when there isn’t. This can cause self-driving cars to stop or steer into the wrong lane trying to avoid a non-existent roadblock. These are problems that autonomous vehicle developers like Tesla and Uber are still trying to fix.

The Internet of Things and Autonomous Vehicles

One of 5G’s main goals is to make the Internet of Things (IoT) a full-fledged reality. IoT basically means integrating the internet to everyday life. Professionals plan on connecting even household items like toasters and coffeemakers to create an interconnected system.

Imagine stopping your alarm to wake up, triggering your toaster to start heating up bread and your coffeemaker to start brewing a cup for you as you make your way to the kitchen. This applies to vehicles as well. In a perfect IoT world, your garage would open up and your car would make its way to meet you as you step out into the driveway.

It’s not all perfect, however. Any device that can be connected to the internet is ripe for hacker picking. In 2015, a pair of cybersecurity professionals remotely hacked a Jeep.

The eventual rise of 5G this 2019 will be a game changer for technology, especially for self-driving vehicles. Its speed allows people to create an interconnected hub of devices. And it also lets autonomous cars operate without any delay in information. While there might be security issues to take note of, faster wireless internet will always be a welcome innovation for everyone.

Get Real-World Navigation Tests

It’s crucial for any self-driving vehicle to have a secure navigation system. CAST understands that GNSS can easily fall victim to interference. We are a leading provider in GNSS/INS Simulation Systems for testing and training navigation systems against threats like jamming and spoofing. With our 35 years of experience, you’re sure to find optimal solutions with us.

Contact us today to get a quote.

February 22, 2019