Edge computing set for big role in 5G vehicle automation
There’s no consensus on how best to use processing power at the edge of the network to support connected cars and autonomous vehicles (AVs). However, advanced autos are a natural use case for edge computing. Self-driving autos would consume and generate large amounts of data, rely on complex decision-making, and would be mobile, often taking vehicles far from a central data center.
Most AVs are expected to use a mix of onboard and remote decision-making. Running applications close to where data is generated can reduce round trips to the cloud, slashing end-to-end latency and easing the transmission burden on core network links.
Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) is one of the architectural changes behind the scenes that will complement the 5G mobile network’s advanced radio infrastructure. Others, including network slicing and virtualization of software and hardware in carrier facilities, will help make edge computing possible.
Some mobile operators have already implemented edge computing on 4G. For AT&T, positioning servers near the edge has slashed a typical 100ms roundtrip latency on LTE to 20ms, said Cameron Coursey, VP/CTO of IoT at AT&T. With 5G, AT&T wants to achieve 10ms or less to support automated driving. Verizon, Deutsche Telekom and other operators also plan to deploy MEC.
One example of an autonomous driving application that could use edge computing is automated traffic management, said Martin Beltrop, head of Nokia’s mobile networks automotive business. An application would analyze real-time data about the location, direction and speed of all the cars, pedestrians and other connected road users in a given area — up to 1,000 objects in a busy intersection. The software would use that data to build an object model of the road users, including their location and direction, which could be used to help AVs get through the area safely and efficiently.
How close is the edge?
Achieving the approximately 10ms latency needed for this service would require both 5G and an “edge cloud” located closer than the core of the carrier’s network, Beltrop said. That wouldn’t necessarily mean servers mounted on cell towers. With fiber backhaul from nearby basestations transmitting data at the speed of light, the edge cloud could be as far as 10km away, he said. In a well-architected 5G network, it could reside at the first or second aggregation point behind the basestation.
At those distances, there could be one edge cloud hosting the traffic management computing for an entire city, Beltrop said. The software would run analysis of each intersection separately but on the same computing platform. Nokia learned this in part from trials of such a data center in Munich, where it achieved a highly reliable latency of 10ms to 20ms over an LTE network, he said.
Ericsson has looked at the same problem in a slightly different way but also concluded that edge computing would eventually be necessary.
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