Scania says it has become the first company to test Ericsson’s new 5G technology components, as part of a collaboration between Scania and Ericsson Research to explore the use of 5G networks in transport communications.
Scania says the technology will feature prominently in trials of autonomous driving and connected vehicles. Three state-of-the-art mobile base stations have been installed at Scania’s R&D facility in Sweden and the test network will be continuously updated with new technology as it is being developed.
Anders Ställberg, Scania’s Project Manager for City Automation says the new test network with its 5G components allows for a high quality mobile network service, with low-latency and high bandwidth, where a lot of complex data can be transferred very quickly and very reliably.“It is providing us with a ‘priority communications lane’ when it comes to projects such as autonomous driving and platooning.”
Having a ‘priority lane’ has sometimes been an issue in crowded pre-5G networks, where users have to jostle for space with those who are streaming films, music or games. 5G will support many more instances of use than 4G networks – particularly in communication between machines.
For Scania, the low latency (delay) in 5G connections means the new technology could be used by vehicles transmitting braking or directional information to each other, where speed and reliability are vital. It could also be used to help improve the reliability and speed of the exchange of the information between the two or more vehicles in a truck platoon.
Where previously WLAN technology has been used, the 5G technology, with its guaranteed level of latency and bandwidth, could offer an alternative.
The new technology can also play a key role in tests of Scania’s autonomous vehicle system, such as self-driving vehicles continuously updating a map for autonomous driving, stored on a central server, for distribution to other vehicles in the system.
Both Scania and Ericsson feel that the 5G trials will prove to be of great value. Says Anders Ställberg, “It allows Scania to further develop the capabilities underpinning our ongoing projects, while Ericsson fulfils its desire to test its new technology in a working, practical environment.”
Torbjörn Lundahl, Programme Director for the 5G National Research Programme at
Ericsson Research, says the trials with Scania will help it understand the requirements to ensure they are met by the 5G standard and products and deepens the experience with the transportation sector which is a focus industry for Ericsson.”
Meantime the push toward Autonomous vehicles will mean trucks will need to manage large amounts of data in order to make the right decisions and clearly with One of the advantages Scania believes it has is control of the entire technology chain, from sensors to wheel axles and data systems and clearly access to 5G communication.
Drivers rarely consider how their senses are bombarded with thousands of impressions every second, all of which influence the choices they make. Self-driving vehicles need to behave in the same way, reading and interpreting their surroundings to make the right decisions.
Marco Trincavelli holds a PhD in robotics and works as a developer at Scania. His job is to analyse and interpret the information captured by the sensors of vehicles.
“I get data in from the sensors and try to go through it and create models that are robust and allow the computer to make the right decision,” he says.
Scania has already developed functioning prototypes that can drive on unmarked unsealed roads and interact with other vehicles to avoid collisions. Positioning is still dependent on GPS, which doesn’t work in places such as underground mines.
“We are developing special positioning modules to allow for the vehicles to be positioned in mines without GPS,” says Trincavelli. “In order to be able to drive completely autonomously, you need positioning that’s accurate down to just two to three centimetres above the ground, and that’s not possible with GPS.”
Several technologies are available to give vehicles the ability to interpret their surroundings. Scania has chosen to focus on radar and cameras, setting itself apart from Google, for example.
“They’re focusing on laser sensors,” says Trincavelli. “It’s not that we’re opposed to that kind of sensor, but we first want to see what can be achieved using the sensors that we have on vehicles already in production and then evolve to laser sensors when we feel it’s needed.”
It also comes down to being smart about the way the choice of technology is adapted to the application. “There may be some scenarios where a full sensor set-up isn’t necessary,” says Trincavelli. “If you can manage with the cheaper but more robust sensors that we have today, then that’s better than shoving in all of the sensors at once.”
The technology behind Scania’s autonomous vehicles is the result of collaborative work between Scania, Saab Technologies, and Autoliv.
“Scania has developed the sensor functions and the decision-making capabilities,” says Trincavelli.
“The computers and radar are commercial products that we buy in, and our stereo cameras are developed by Autoliv.”
As well as the hardware components, Saab Technologies has developed the overall system for controlling and monitoring all the vehicles in locations such as mines.
When assembling a complete system for autonomous vehicles , it’s crucial that all the different bits of the puzzle fit together properly.
“Achieving integration between the modules is one of the most difficult things that we do,” says Trincavelli. “It’s like working with musicians in an orchestra; if one plays a bad note the whole thing sounds bad. All the different parts need to understand each other and work together.”