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Autonomous cars are going to need to send and receive mountains of data, and the current 4G wireless networks simply won’t cut it.

That’s where the next-generation 5G comes into play, promising insanely-fast data transfer rates of up to 45 gigabits-per-second and one-millisecond latency.

Super-fast transfer speeds will be required by self-driving cars to enable them to communicate with a wide range of systems such as navigation services, traffic signals as part of connecting to smart city infrastructure, car-to-car communication and even to close-proximity mobile phone users – all in the interest of pilotless vehicle safety.

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This kind of multi-functional processing means cars will be generating terabytes of data at any one time, which will need to be updated to a cloud computing infrastructure.

Using 5G wireless networks will enable driverless cars to avoid hitting pedestrians by a direct connection between the car and the person’s handheld device as they approach an intersection.

Additionally, a mega-fast 5G system could enable Navigation units to feed off numerous online and satellite sources to compute more efficient and weather-friendly traffic routes and the like.

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We won’t have to wait long, either. While 5G standards are currently being worked out, expect to see everything up and running by 2020, when Volkswagen has promised to bring its first semi-autonomous electric car to market.

Better still, huge communications organisations like AT&T and Verizon are due to start testing 5G networks later this year, with deployment set for… you guessed it, 2020.

And it’s not just the traditional car companies that are in the autonomous vehicle game, it’s also tech companies like Google, Uber and Nvidia, all of which have already tested driverless cars on the streets in the United States.

That said, electric car company Tesla will have fully-autonomous vehicles ready by 2018, Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen by 2020, while Ford and BMW claim they will have autonomous cars on the road by 2021.

MORE: Autonomous vehicle news coverage




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