5G’s influence on the future of autonomous transport

In Sweden, a transport company, Einride, recently commissioned its all electric, autonomous truck named T-pod, in a partnership with Ericsson's 5G network, with stunning results.
2 January 2019

The Einride T-pod autonomous concept truck. Source: Nova SAFO / AFP

The promise of 5G with its high capacity bandwidth and low latency has been touted as a key building block in the future of transport systems for some time now.

In Sweden, a transport company, Einride, recently commissioned its all-electric, autonomous truck named T-pod, in a partnership with Ericsson.

With Ericsson’s 5G network as the foundation, the vehicles are being used for logistics support at a storage facility in Sweden, owned by DB Schenker.

The vehicle will travel continuously to and from the warehouse. DB Schenker CEO Jochen Thewes says that the partnership with Einride is in line with the ultimate goal of bringing autonomous trucks onto public roads in the future.

“We at Schenker are working at full speed on sustainable and innovative logistics. Autonomous driving will become increasingly important for this. We want to set new standards for tomorrow’s logistics,” he said.

“Heavy road transport is responsible for a substantial part of global CO2 emissions. By substituting electricity for diesel, we reduce CO2 emissions by 90 percent,” added Einride CEO and Founder Robert Flack.

The vehicle has no driver’s cab but can be operated remotely. Running solely on batteries, a fleet of T-pods can be coordinated by an intelligent routing system.

This would optimize delivery time, battery life, and energy consumption. The vehicle is capable of SAE level-4 self-driving.

Ericsson’s 5G backbone is being used to provide high-performance connectivity for the operation of this vehicle. The company’s Head of Business in Area Technologies and New Business, Asa Tamsons, said a paradigm shift is happening.

“5G, with its high-data speeds and ultra-low latency, is powering a new world of autonomous vehicles that takes fleet management to the next level. Einride’s transportation solution is a perfect example of how 5G can drive cost efficiencies, improve safety, and create a sustainable future,” he added.

According to predictions by experts, autonomous systems like this have the potential to replace more than 60 percent of today’s transport.

A report from Ericsson estimates that there is a US$619 billion revenue opportunity for telecom operators by 2026.

The company believes operators will need to rethink their roles, value systems, and business models to take part in this revolution.

5G business models will have to adapt to diverse and granular needs that could range from extreme low-cost and high-performance use cases.

LTE-based Internet of Things (IoT) technologies such as CAT-M1 and NB-IoT are being used for massive IoT use cases, as it becomes the de-facto connectivity solution.

Telecom companies are now on the cusp of a major revolution, and by experimenting and rethinking what role to take, they will be able to capture the full business potential of 5G networks in the future.