Home & Office

Ultimate backseat driver? Telefónica-Ericsson's 5G lets you drive car that's 40 miles away

In what they're calling the world's first 5G remote-driving concept, Telefónica and Ericsson have showcased the tech's reliability, high data transmission capacity, and low latency.
Written by Anna Solana, Contributor on

For the remote driver to control the car safely, the 5G network has to provide reliability and ultra-low latency.

Image: Anna Solana/ZDNet

A car is at the Idiada test circuit at Tarragona, Spain. Normally, it might be a problem that its driver is miles away in Barcelona.

But Spanish telecoms firm Telefónica and Ericsson have shown how a trial 5G network, 4K video streams, sensors, and haptic steering wheel tech can enable the driver to take the controls of the car remotely, at a distance of 70km, or 43 miles.

In a demonstration last week at MWC, the driver sat in what looked like a 3D driving simulator, took the wheel, and drove the car, which had been prototyped by the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology.

The whole process is supported by 15GHz high-frequency spectrum, with ultra-narrow beams that track the car from the 5G base station, which is also located at the Idiada circuit

For the driver to be able to control the vehicle safely over the network, the technology has to provide reliability and an ultra-low latency of less than two milliseconds in 5G access, plus two additional milliseconds in the backhaul.

Telefónica global CTO Enrique Blanco stressed that the company needs to manage this spectrum "to guarantee a great response to what customers are asking". But he also underlined that 5G won't be running overnight, but is "a journey to the next level of customer experience, faster services and customized, specific applications".

He said 5G is not only an evolution of radio technology but an opportunity to apply the concepts of virtualization in network architecture and move towards a completely convergent network core, both for fixed and mobile access.

As a result, the transition to 5G will be more of a continuous process and won't simply substitute existing networks as previous waves of technology have done.

Telefónica innovation and transformation projects manager Guillermo Bataller added that the technology can be applied to several verticals, such as the automotive, to improve security in certain tasks, for example, in the mining sector.

He points out that with 5G standards set to be agreed by the end of the year, final spectrum band arrangements and detailed radio specifications are still being debated.

However, the most interesting feature of 5G might be network slicing, which will allow operators to split a single physical network into multiple virtual networks, Bataller said.

Read more about car driving technology

Editorial standards