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HK to roll out 5G vehicle communication system

Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) is leading the city’s efforts to implement a global solution known as cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology which is a communication system that enables a vehicle’s smart sensors to interact and exchange data with other smart vehicles, infrastructure, mobile networks and devices – could help tackle road safety problems, such as accidents and congestion.

Since 2017, ASTRI and its partner (Hong Kong’s flagship mobile network provider) have been working together to fine-tune the technology. Their latest endeavour is called the 5G V2X project, the first trial run of C-V2X on public roads in Hong Kong.

The journey will involve a 14km-stretch between the Science Park and Sha Tin town centre. The 30-minute drive will see connected vehicles collect road intelligence data as they pass 14 sets of Road Side Units (RSUs) on lamp posts and traffic lights. The RSUs will provide real-time warnings and data for 10 different driving conditions on the road.

Any vehicle equipped with an on-board unit can communicate with different elements along the road, forming an ecosystem powered by 5G technology.

Various devices can collect real-time traffic data and use it to provide warnings to drivers of hazardous driving situations, traffic light changes, pedestrians on a road crossing, and alternative travel routes in the event of a nearby accident or traffic congestion ahead.

In the future, the ecosystem could accommodate autonomous vehicles, allowing actions – like closely grouping cars together in busy areas – to alleviate traffic jams.

The Road Side Unit is a small radio unit installed on top of the traffic light post, about 12 metres in height. It a coverage radius of 100-200 metres; every vehicle coming into this area will communicate to the radio of this Road Side Unit.

Every second, the unit communicates 10 times about its location, direction and its speed. With this exchange of information, the computer onboard the vehicle will calculate what will happen after four seconds. It will alert the driver through this analysis.

C-V2X involves the “Internet of Vehicles”, which has been made more efficient and reliable through the development of 5G which is 20 times faster than 4G, and five times shorter in latency. It can connect one million vehicles or sensors within one square km.

The layered design of the C-V2X system means it can be used in different parts of Hong Kong and also across Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area.

ASTRI and HKT’s work on C-V2X has consisted of several demonstrations and trials, including the first C-V2X live trial at Hong Kong Science Park, in Sha Tin, in 2017, a field trial in Wuxi, mainland China, in 2018, and a 2019 demonstration of autonomous driving at Hong Kong International Airport.

This site was chosen for the variety of traffic scenarios it provides: regular public roads, roundabouts, hotspot cross junctions, and even intersections without traffic lights. The aim was to prove that C-V2X can be used to improve traffic safety and efficiency in real-life conditions.

This trial will see ASTRI and HKT working with a vehicle partner – a Swedish manufacturer of commercial vehicles, which has considerable expertise in driver behaviour testing as well as a global database of best practices.

The business development director in Hong Kong and China for the vehicle manufacturer stated that its existing Advanced Driver Assistance System already includes blind-spot detection, lane-departure warnings and an automated electric brake system.

This has drastically improved vehicle safety, but communication remains one-way within the vehicle, she said. The company’s collaboration with ASTRI on C-V2X will increase the range of detection of outside elements and subsequently improve safety further.

The road trial would help test the interaction between ASTRI’s on-board unit, the manufacturer’s vehicles and the infrastructure set up along the road to see whether they can correctly access the data while the vehicle is moving.

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