In November 2018, Spark launched its Innovation Lab to showcase 5G technology to New Zealand businesses. Ohmio Automotion is the first NZ business to test the technical capabilities of 5G and explore how it could enhance their products and experiences.
Ohmio first partnered with Spark to test and refine its products at the 5G Lab. They've since been able to trial the first 5G-connected driverless car prototype on Auckland streets.
The test was carried out on 13 March 2019 in a controlled area at Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct. They used Spark’s pre-commercial 5G network, available as part of our 5G Innovation Lab. The car had the latest technology to ensure that it would integrate with Spark’s 5G test network.
Dr Mahmood Hikmet, Ohmio’s Head of Research and Development said:
“We believe this test with Spark is only the second of its type in the world. Today has demonstrated some of the exciting opportunities 5G will enable for our autonomous car technology. A 5G network can be up to 100 times faster than 4G, which unlocks the true potential for autonomous driving, as messages need to be transmitted and decisions made in real-time. A significant drop in latency – or the reaction time when one device talks to another – will give cars human-like reflexes and opens up multiple possibilities for connected infrastructure and a smart city ecosystem.”
Ohmio plans to launch more driverless cars in closed facilities across New Zealand, including airports, university campuses, retirement villages and hospitals.
Once Ohmio have achieved on-road certification, they'll look for opportunities to use the cars on public streets alongside regular vehicles. One example of how this might come to life is as a first-mile (and last-mile) solution. That means Ohmio vehicles could carry people short distances, connecting them to/from transport hubs, such as train stations or bus stops. This would reduce the need for park-and-rides.
In a 5G environment, Ohmio’s automonous vehicles will be able to connect with other vehicles, infrastructure and traffic management systems. This will allow them to achieve greater efficiency and, crucially, safety.
The key to operating autonomous vehicles is ultra-low latency. This is needed to provide exceptionally high throughput of data. Fast peer-to-peer communication means that both vehicles and infrastructure can share sensor-generated data with each other on the road in real time. Image vehicles constantly "talking to each other and the city around them.
Prior to 5G, control systems on autonomous vehicles were restricted to using wires to send information. With 5G’s high throughput and low latency, we can go completely wireless while retaining the same speed of transmission. This could open up many exciting possibilities around the design and architecture of autonomous vehicle control systems.
“Our partnership with Ohmio demonstrates the potential of 5G, which goes far beyond the speed of mobile phones and wireless broadband connections."
– Colin Brown, Spark’s Lead for Network Evolution