Honda and Verizon recently announced that they are teaming up to develop safety technologies for future connected vehicles. Such safety functions require super-fast data transmission using 5G along with mobile edge computing (MEC) technology to reduce the latency of compute-intensive operations.
Teaming up with the University of Michigan, the Honda-Verizon research collaboration has already tested 5G, MEC, and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology in several road incident scenarios. Image used courtesy of Honda
In this article, we’ll take a look at what MEC is and how it can facilitate latency-sensitive applications—specifically those on the road.
First, Some Background on Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of shared IT resources, especially data storage and computing power, over the internet. For example, instead of buying and maintaining a physical data storage device, a user can turn to cloud technology to store data in a remote database. Users gain access to these shared resources on an as-needed basis and only pay for the services used.
Among other advantages such as reliability and quick deployment, cloud computing can also improve performance in global-scale services. This is because major cloud providers are based on a worldwide network of data centers. Running on this worldwide network, the application is executed in closer proximity to the end users, leading to reduced latency and improved performance.
However, even this proximity may not cut it for extremely latency-sensitive applications such as vehicular networks.
What Is Mobile Edge Computing?
Multi-access edge computing (MEC)—formerly known as mobile edge computing—attempts to bring the capabilities of cloud computing to the edge of the mobile network within the radio access network (RAN) and in close proximity to mobile subscribers.
Depiction of how MECs connect to cloud servers. Image used courtesy of Ibrahim A. Elgendy et al.
MEC is the next step in the evolution of mobile base stations. With MEC, compute-intensive operations can be performed in base stations rather than on remote servers of the cloud provider. This can reduce the latency as well as congestion on mobile networks.
MEC Makes Its Way to Autonomous Vehicles
Future connected, autonomous vehicles will need access to local contextual information such as the position of the nearby vehicles, motorcycles, pedestrians, and weather conditions to avoid collisions.
The Honda-Verizon research collaboration attempts to reduce the need for complex AI computing on-board each connected vehicle. However, it is not possible to use cloud computing for implementing these heavy computations when considering the latency of interfacing with the cloud central servers.
Hence, the Honda-Verizon research attempts to implement the required artificial intelligence functions in mobile base stations instead of in cloud servers or on-board the vehicles.
This option will require the incorporation of two rather nascent technologies: 5G for the required data transmission speeds and mobile edge computing (MEC) for bringing the cloud capabilities as close as possible to the driver.
Agnostic of radio interface, MEC can be used in both 4G and 5G networks. Image used courtesy of IoT Automotive News
The Honda-Verizon research uses the 5G network to relay the information captured by smart cameras to the MEC. MEC analyzes this information in a short period of time and if necessary, sends warning messages to the drivers.
Combining 5G and MEC for Safer Roads
5G technology is expected to provide wireless communications with less than 1 ms latency and a throughput up to 50 times faster than existing 4G networks. However, it’s important to note that these are not achieved only by improved circuit blocks that enable communication in the millimeter-wave (mmWave) range. Under the covers, 5G employs a variety of technological advances to create a more efficient communications system.
In MEC scenarios, connected vehicles can receive data—and react—within a matter of milliseconds. Image used courtesy of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute
For example, 5G will be driven by software. This is due to the fact that 5G should support several different functions, such as eMBB, URLLC, mMTC, through the same physical network. This can be achieved only by employing emerging technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), mobile edge computing (MEC), and fog computing (FC). These technologies will provide 5G with the required performance, scalability, and agility.
From a hardware standpoint, what are your thoughts on the convergence of 5G, edge computing, and vehicle functionality? Share your ideas in the comments below.