A lot of experts predict that the rise of autonomous driving and connected cars will be accelerating as 5G networks are rolled out worldwide. But why is 5G a precondition for the future of self-driving cars? What can we expect along with the further rollout of the new mobile network, and what is the current state of the automotive industry? And how can testing help the automotive industry?
These are the topics we will tackle with this article, as a part of our series on MWC 2020 and its main theme of 5G and limitless intelligent connectivity.
Predictions and Expectations for 5G in the Automotive Industry
As previously mentioned in our blog article “Get ready: Testbirds @ MWC 2020”, 5G technology is seen as the basic requirement for connected cars being able to drive.
The fast and stable 5G network will enable cars to communicate with other connected vehicles, providing information to other cars, as well as to drivers and automakers – in real-time.
But why is 5G so crucial? Why is 4G not good enough to connect partly or fully autonomous vehicles? Well, the answer’s pretty easy: 4G is simply too slow. It might be fast enough for HD or 4K streaming, but when talking about the safety of connected driving it’s still too slow.
Imagine this familiar scenario: Connected vehicles are supposed to make driving much safer by sharing braking data. So, let’s say the connected cars in front of you suddenly have to stop. To enable your autonomous vehicle to brake in time, the data only has a few milliseconds to get from one car to the others. Milliseconds that can and will save lives.
As Huawei states in their whitepaper Connecting Cars on The Road to 5G:
“5G network technologies, which are being developed by the telecoms industry now, will be key enablers of innovative applications in the auto industry. By delivering ultra-low latency of 1ms, having capacity for 1 million connections per square kilometre and providing 99.999 percent reliability, 5G will boost the safety and efficiency of future connected cars and help spur the development of self-driving cars.”
Or in other words:
“ a 4G network, a self-driving car travelling at 100 km/h will continue to move 1.4 metres from detecting a failure to applying the brakes. This can be the difference between life and death. On a 5G network, the same car will move just 2.8 centimetres, and this is comparable with the standard of Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS).”
These two quotes clearly point out how 5G with its low latency, high bandwidth, and network slicing capabilities will enhance the future of connected driving.
The Current State of the Automotive Industry
We all know it, we all (or almost all) do it: we use applications that connect our smartphones to the car’s systems. Be it for music streaming or GPS services, it’s become normalized for today’s drivers – they’re used to it and they expect it to work. Even 3G was sufficient enough for this kind of usage – but from the moment we start to talk about real-time updates on our smart devices, like when loading maps, a 4G connection is often necessary to make it seamless.
Also, assisting systems like lane changing, assisted braking, or assisted parking are already quite common if you have a newer car. It’s also already possible to allow insurance providers to monitor your driving style and therefore get benefits or lower premiums – if you’re a good driver. 😉
And we’ve all surely heard about Tesla working hard on their autopilot feature, which can already match the speed of your car to the surrounding traffic, assist you with lane changes or parking, and will soon be able to react to traffic lights and stop signs. Currently, all of those features still demand an active driver with their hands on the steering wheel at all times. However, it does already give a glimpse of what is about to come.
There are still a lot of obstacles on the road before we reach the dream of a completely driverless car experience, where people can work (or nap) while the vehicle takes them to their desired destination. One part of the journey to our driverless dream is connected apps, which are involved in the car-human communication. These apps can help you plan your route, give you important vehicle data, and show it all on the vehicle’s display.
Nice and easy you might say – apps are something we’ve known about for years now. Of course you’re right, but still – these apps also need a lot of thorough testing.
The biggest difficulty here – as we’ve learned with our clients – is the very specific target group.
For BMW Motorrad, we needed testers with a very specific motorbike which hadn’t been on the market very long when we started the test. Besides that, this very small target group had to be willing to participate in the test and drive around a lot. So how did we help with that? We’ll get to that soon.
App Ratings, Usability, and UX – How Crowdtesting Ensures Happy Users
Good app ratings, outstanding usability and user experience (UX), and highly engaged users – this is what the automotive industry (among others) is aiming for.
But how do you get all that? By asking your users, your customers, your target group. In the automotive industry, this is usually a very small amount of people because of the various pre-conditions they need to fulfil. Especially tester recruiting is very time- and cost-sensitive due to this. Also, a lot of digital testing experience is required – because you don’t want to risk new app features completely destroying the interaction between app, car, and human.
Now, let me tell you how we managed the testing of the BMW Motorrad Connected App.
The goal of the test was to test the app internationally with different smartphones and motorbike types. The main focus was the compatibility between hardware and software and the interaction between external software and various software versions. Testing with employees was not sufficient for BMW Motorrad due to the missing variety of smartphones, vehicle models, and software versions. That’s why they decided to use Crowdtesting.
The biggest challenge in this project was finding the right testers. The test could only be conducted on certain motorbikes with TFT-displays that were only available on a limited amount of motorcycles. We worked very closely together with BMW following the Bring-Your-Own-Crowd™ principle, which lets you include your own clients or employees in the testing process.
Ready to learn more about the details of our BMW Motorrad test? Have a look at the BMW Case Study!
As you can tell, there are many interesting developments on the way for connected cars. We’ll see a lot of new use cases and both things we did and didn’t expect, before we reach the fully autonomous driving experience. We’re very excited to be a part of these developments and will be watching and working closely with the expansion of the industry and the technological capabilities that come with it.
Want to discuss the development in the automotive sector further or talk about all the other exciting things happening around 5G, AI, and IoT? Then come visit us at MWC 2020, we’re looking forward to seeing you!
We’d be happy if you schedule a meeting upfront to make sure we have enough time for your questions. Just send us a quick message with your preferred time slot.