VW Bringing 5G to I.D. Electric Vehicles Supporting Autonomous Features

Volkswagen plans to combine its new I.D. electric vehicle lineup with 5G connectivity and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications to prepare for autonomous driving by 2025.

VW began embedding connectivity features into new vehicles four years ago, now reaching about 2.1 million VW vehicles. Originally designed to improve safety and comfort features, the new 5G system and V2X will speed up downloading. Having ultrafast download speeds will be needed for the vehicle to take over more tasks from driver as VW vehicles become more automated.

The 5G system is still a few years out, as are the I.D. electric vehicle launches.

The first model in the I.D. family, a concept launched at the Paris auto show in October, will be a compact-sized hatchback scheduled for a 2020 launch. The next I.D. model will be an SUV following soon after the compact hatchback, and a microbus MPV should be launched in 2022.

Volkmar Tanneberger, VW’s head of electronics development, discussed the future of 5G in VW vehicles at this month’s CES in Las Vegas. Tanneberger spoke during a keynote presentation held by partner Qualcomm; the U.S. technology supplier will be launching a new processing chip called Snapdragon 835 sometime in the first half of 2017. Qualcomm will also be launching trial test runs of 5G mobile communication standards starting this year together with companies such as AT&T and Ericsson.

“All future solutions for individual mobility rely on the ability to handle large amounts of data inside and outside the car,” Tanneberger said. “5G is the key enabling technology to accommodate big data, enhance the user experience and transform the transportation system as a whole.”

Prior to availability of the 5G technology, VW will be offering a new online connectivity unit featuring the Qualcomm Snapdragon X12 Modem, he said. That system uses 4G’s LTE standard with data downloads that go up to 600 Megabits per second.

Bringing in 5G and V2X technology is expected to assist autonomous features being added to VW vehicles. That includes onboard sensors such as high-resolution cameras and LiDAR sensors.

Qualcomm sees 5G having an historic impact on the future of vehicles and other technologies.

“5G will have an impact similar to the introduction of electricity or the automobile,” said Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf. “In 2035 when 5G’s full economic benefit should be realized across the globe, a broad range of industries from retail to education, transportation to entertainment, and everything in between could produce up to $12 trillion worth of goods and services enabled by 5G.”

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Volkswagen had joined together with other automaker and telecomm companies backing 5G for the future of data transfer between vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken a different tack with a proposed rule on radio-based technology, also known as dedicated short-range communication.

Opponents say that the technology will be outdated by the time the new rule takes effect in the market. Regulators have said 5G will take too long to come to market to support development of connectivity in new vehicles.

VW chose V2X as its standard against the competing DSRC and its short-range wireless technology. That would require deployment of its own dedicated infrastructure along roads versus existing cellular networks, according to VW.

Qualcomm is also working with Volkswagen’s sister brand Audi to pilot cellular V2X in Germany beginning this year.

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