Verizon (Engadget’s parent company) is continuing its very gradual 5G rollout, but this time it’s more about the future of transportation than the phone in your hands. The carrier’s 5G network is now live at the University of Michigan’s Mcity test facility to provide a boost to connected self-driving cars. In theory, the combination of abundant bandwidth with low lag will help autonomous vehicles share crucial data with each other, city cameras and traffic lights to make more informed decisions. A car could receive word of a crash ahead in time to maneuver out of harm’s way, or use traffic lights to warn pedestrians before they cross the street.
It’s not surprising that Verizon would roll out in Mcity. The telecom is part of a “leadership circle” of companies with a stake in the project, including GM and LG.
It may be a long, long time before 5G is truly ready for the road. The millimeter wave tech Verizon and others use might offer tremendous speed, but it’s short-ranged and prone to interference. Cities will need to be blanketed in cell sites to ensure reliable connections, and it’s not yet clear how well 5G will behave when there are legions of driverless cars roaming the streets. This is more about exploring technology than a vision of what you can expect.
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