Long before he plunged into the Californian waves to save drowning swimmers, actor David Hasselhoff starred in another popular show. It was called Knight Rider and featured a black Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am car called KITT that could drive itself (and chat away rather smugly at the same time).
Now Huawei has joined Google in the battle to make the first commercially-viable self-driving cars. Its CEO Eric Xu told the Financial Times this week that this could become a reality by 2020 based on a series of technologies it is developing in conjunction with its new fifth generation mobile network. “We are in close partnership with car manufacturers to find their requirements for 5G,” Xu said.
Huawei will not make the cars itself, but the modules that can be installed to drive them. The key to success, it says, is the speed of the 5G network, with download rates increasing from 4G’s 100 megabits per second to 10 gigabits. Xu said this should help with the latency issue – the time taken for data to travel to a server and back. 4G is as ‘slow’ as 80 milliseconds, while Xu hopes 5G will increase that speed to between 1 and 5 milliseconds. The greater the speed, the less likely that there will be collisions between driverless cars communicating via the network.
Currently Huawei is the leader in 4G LTE technology, having won 38% of global installation contracts, according to research firm Ovum (Ericsson takes second place with 31%).
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