by Tiia Ojanperä (VTT)
The 5G mobile network and fast data transmission solutions can be used to collect a huge amount of data from vehicles on the road. The information can be used for various purposes, such as providing road weather services, carrying out road maintenance and controlling self-driving cars. Ultimately the aim is to reduce accidents.
The two-year 5G-Safe project explored the possibilities of using 5G to improve road safety. Thanks to the fast 5G network and distributed data processing solutions, including multi-access edge computing (MEC), vast amounts of sensor, video and radar data can be collected from vehicles. The information can be transmitted automatically in real-time, without the need for drivers to do anything themselves. The data can also be processed, and warnings can be sent to road users, road maintenance and third parties by means of intelligent systems.
The 5G-Safe project developed and piloted novel 5G road safety solutions  in real vehicle and test network environments. The final piloting event took place at the Sod5G winter vehicle test track in Sodankylä, Finnish Lapland in November 2018. At the final event, the project demonstrated to the public advanced road weather services enabled by 5G, vehicle-to-vehicle video for improving road safety, road maintenance optimisation through crowdsourcing and 5G-assisted automated driving.
The VTT-led project was completed at the end of 2018. Participants included the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Destia, Unikie, Sitowise and Kaltiot. The project was part of the Challenge Finland competition and financed by Business Finland.
Icy Corner Ahead – Please Slow Down!
Local road weather services are one of the key applications for the data collected from vehicles. In the future, real-time weather information and warnings can be sent directly to drivers’ satellite navigation devices, for example. The new solutions give drivers access to highly localised data, such as warnings about icy conditions around the corner. Drivers can use the information to choose a different route or change the way they drive.
In the final pilot, the 5G-Safe project demonstrated three weather and safety related services delivered to vehicles via the 5G test network on the test track. The services included the road weather forecast, traffic safety alert and weather alert . The services relied on the robust and extensive data exchange between vehicles and cloud enabled by 5G.
Some automated weather warnings can already be transmitted via the current 4G and ITS-G5 networks, and solutions are being introduced gradually. However, transmitting real-time video footage or 3D LiDAR views reliably between vehicles requires considerably more network capacity and very low latency. The fast 5G network can support both.
One way to use vehicle videos and 3D views is a ‘see-through’ application  demonstrated at the final event. It can be used, for example, to share the dashboard camera footage of a lorry holding up a long queue of cars with the drivers stuck behind the lorry. This increases safety especially in poor weather conditions such as when visibility is obstructed by drifting snow.
Crowdsourcing Information for Road Maintenance Purposes
5G technology also opens up new possibilities from the perspective of road maintenance. The new technology provides an extremely efficient way to collect information on the condition of roads. The 5G-Safe project demonstrated how the data can be used to alert road maintenance providers to a range of issues requiring their attention, such as snow build-up on the roads, snowy traffic signs or potholes.
This is a big improvement on the current approach, in which road maintenance contractors are responsible for collecting this information themselves and therefore need to drive around to inspect roads visually. If monitoring could be crowdsourced to all road users, road maintenance contractors could work considerably more efficiently and cut their costs.
Having access to comprehensive and reliable data would allow road maintenance contractors to prioritise the most urgent jobs. More efficient maintenance could improve the entire road network and therefore increase road safety.
Self-Driving Cars Expand Their Territory
5G technology helps human drivers behind the wheel, but its impact on self-driving cars could be even more revolutionary. Real-time data can be used to better control self-driving cars and change their behaviour based on observations. VTT’s self-driving car Martti  has already trialled these possibilities.
In the final pilot, VTT’s self-driving car Martti drove in automated mode on the test track utilising its own sensors and warnings received through the 5G test network . Martti received warnings from a MEC service that was detecting obstacles on the road in real-time based on LiDAR data transmitted by another vehicle. A snapshot of the scenario is shown in Figure 1. In addition, Martti received slippery road alerts from the road weather service. Based on the warnings, the robot car was able to plan its route to avoid dangerous stretches of the road and go around obstacles.
Figure 1: The 5G-assisted automated driving scenario demonstrated on the Sod5G winter vehicle test track. The front vehicle transmits LiDAR data to an obstacle detection algorithm running on a MEC server. The self-driving car Martti, behind, receives a warning and manages to go around the obstacle.
Precise information can be vital in challenging conditions and even expand the potential uses of self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are currently mostly used in areas where weather conditions are not a problem. Controlling self-driving cars in Nordic climate requires accurate information on road conditions in real-time. The new technology makes it possible to collect data from areas beyond the cars’ own sensors (see video). These kinds of services are extremely important for future self-driving cars.
Towards Global Markets
Services developed during the 5G-Safe project have been piloted in real-life environments. The next step is to commercialise the results. In addition, the partners are currently planning a follow-up project involving further development of road safety solutions based on 5G technology. The new project will include partners elsewhere in Europe, since there is clearly a lot of interest in solutions and services that improve road safety on the global market as well.
 T. Ojanperä, et al.: “Use cases and communications architecture for 5G-enabled road safety services”. In Proc. of EuCNC’18, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 18-21 June 2018.
 T. Ojanperä, et al.: “Development and piloting of 5G road safety services”. Book chapter. IET book Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems: Towards High-Level Automated Driving, 2019, to appear.
 J. Scholliers, et al.: “Development of an automated vehicle as an innovation platform”. In Proc. of the 25th ITS World Congress, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2018.
Project coordinator, 5G-Safe
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland