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Report: 5G-based technology could warn drivers of potential car accidents

The emergence of 5G technology has opened the door to a variety of possibilities, which now includes preventing car accidents, IEEE Spectrum reports. Germany-based researchers recently released a paper that noted 5G tech could warn drivers about potential crashes and direct traffic more broadly. The researchers are planning to show a prototype of their system, which comprises sensors, traffic flow algorithms and a 5G network next year.

The research team’s approach is based on 5G technology’s speed. In theory, a local system could sense when another car is coming, consult a prediction algorithm and warn drivers about a potentially dangerous situation before a collision occurs. The system would leverage sensors and edge computing to assist drivers in their decision making in real time.

“The main specification of the new generation of communication (tech) is that they are all ultrareliable and ultralow latency,” research paper co-author Mohammad Reza Mousavi, a postdoctoral researcher at the Aalen University of Applied Sciences in Germany, said. “The point is that now, with 5G, we can have some infrastructure that has low latency, and we can actually achieve a reaction time that is less than before.”

The local system, which researchers from German institutions including Helmut Schmidt University and Fraunhofer IAO also helped design, comprises several components. It needs a central management system to provide edge-computing capabilities and an algorithm that can calculate traffic flows and collision risks, IEEE Spectrum reports.

How the technology works

In addition, the technology will rely on another system that’s tasked with alerting drivers, or anyone else who is headed toward an intersection. Warnings could be a lit-up text display, flashing lights or an acoustic signal, according to the research paper. The information could also be sent to a mobile app on the driver’s phone or their vehicle’s navigation display. The authors acknowledged these warnings could be distractions and are looking into the impact of different warning methods.

Sensors in this system must be able to track the location of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists as well as handle bad weather conditions. Data would come from different sources, including optical cameras, apps that gather location information, radars and weather forecasts.

Traffic management and collision avoidance are the technology’s two main applications, IEEE Spectrum reports. The system could warn a driver to wait, using data from an upcoming vehicle that’s about to turn. Meanwhile, in situations where the system is applied to multiple connected intersections, it could be deployed to prioritize emergency vehicles or buses over individual passenger cars.

Potential challenges

5G traffic control systems could revolutionize road safety, but implementation won’t be without its challenges, Mousavi said. Deploying the system could take time and 6G cellular technology could require engineers to redesign their current work. There’s also the time it will take to educate the public on the technology.

Despite these challenges, the research paper authors are looking ahead to how their system could inform pedestrians about traffic safety issues as well. Currently, vehicles are equipped with tech that can warn drivers about potential dangers and obstacles, but pedestrians don’t have that luxury.

“We are thinking about how we can alarm these kinds of people that there is, for example, a danger near you,” Mousavi said. “We’re thinking about a new alarm method to all actors on the street.”

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