In our industry, 5G is seemingly everywhere. But out in the real world, it’s a different story. That creates a challenge for R&D work being done today on the cars that will hit the road many years from now. These cars, many of them autonomous, will rely on 5G to power core functionality. In reality, there is limitations to actually testing 5G-based features and capabilities out on public roads today. But 5G Digital Twins, fully-functioning, emulations of next-gen networks, are changing this. In fact, at the end of 2019, Spirent and the University of Warwick jointly announced a major advancement on this front.
5G Digital Twin technology driving advancements in connected car testing
UK-based University of Warwick has long been known for its tightknit relationships with major automotive manufacturers via WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group). Together, with Spirent, it has expanded this work to help carmakers understand how future vehicles will perform in the wireless network fast lane. In conjunction with the University’s Midlands Future Mobility (MFM) initiative, Spirent will deploy 5G Digital Twin technology that emulates 5G networks for testing connected vehicles in a controlled environment, within a 3xD drive-in simulator operated by WMG.
This work features the first all-software, emulated 5G Standalone Core Network dedicated to researching next-gen mobile use cases, including connected automated mobility (CAM), in almost unlimited testing.
In my previous blog, I touted the 5G Digital Twin’s role in supporting expansive testing without limitations. This is a critical capability. The latest standards call for billions of test miles driven before a vehicle is suitable for mass market rollouts. It’s a bar set so high, it’s simply not practical to conduct the testing entirely on real roads. Therefore, vehicles must be tested in simulation environments that accurately replicate the environments cars will eventually drive in.
“We want to be on every type of road and junction”
Dr. Matthew Higgins, associate professor at WMG, emphasizes that as a licensed testbed, automakers rely on MFM to help them accelerate connected and automated mobility roadmaps. As one of only four such testing facilities nationally, MFM is ready to support virtually any testing scenario in the lab. And when vehicles are ready, that testing will extend to hundreds of miles of real roadways that are part of the MFM initiative. Dr. Higgins is careful to point out that not all miles tested are created equal. In comprehensive testing scenarios, it’s not just about the volume of miles tested but the type of mile being tested.
In its 3xD drive-in simulator, MFM must be ready to test any scenario – whether parking or unique pedestrian scenarios, or what happens when vehicles encounter traffic-filled roundabouts or mixed lighting scenarios such as early morning or dusk. Increasingly, the testing requirements extend to mobile connectivity scenarios – particularly, 5G. Carmakers want to understand how vehicles will behave when connections are handed off between cells, when networks are crowded or when they’ve been hacked. They want to understand how different types of 5G connectivity impact performance. What role does distance from cells play in responsiveness? How can network slicing change performance dynamics?
While 5G Non-standalone networks are being deployed most often in these early days, MFM’s testing primarily makes use of 5G Standalone networks. After all, these are the networks likely to be most ubiquitous by the time the vehicles being tested today roll out in a few years.
Focus on data-driven outcomes
At the end of the day, all this testing comes down to actionable data. And driving billions of miles under every imaginable connectivity scenario certainly produces a lot of it. As our testing gets underway, we are eager to keep you up to date on some of the key insights and takeaways.
In the meantime, download our white paper on the 5G Digital Twin to learn more.