LG Uplus and Hanyang Uni test 5G self-driving car in Seoul

LG Uplus and Hanyang University are testing a 5G self-driving car trial in Seoul to demonstrate how it could solve traffic problems.

South Korean telecoms company LG Uplus used its 5G network for the trial which saw a driverless vehicle dubbed the ‘A1’ drive eight kilometres in heavy traffic for 25 minutes.

The car was seen changing lanes and reacting to vehicles around it. Hanyang University’s ACE Lab said the A1 was close to performing at ‘Level 4’ driverless autonomy.

Level 4 would mean the car is able to perform as a ‘local driverless taxi’, the user will not be expected to take over, and pedals and/or steering wheels may not even be installed. Level 5 represents full autonomy which means it can drive under all conditions without supervision.

“It feels like I am with a skilled driver,” said Choi Yun, who took a ride in the self-driving car to send images to reporters gathered at Hanyang University. “I was able to do whatever I liked as the car travelled through the crowded highways.”

The A1 vehicle is fitted with Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology in addition to radar sensors. LIDAR uses light to determine how close to objects the vehicle is, while radar uses radio waves.

5G is enabling such applications due to its low latency. Close to real-time communication is needed to maintain safety. Unlike its competitors, LG Uplus claims its demonstration took ‘full advantage’ of 5G technology.

The A1 will continue to improve as it drives around by collecting road data and using deep learning to boost its driving skills. Over time, it’s expected self-driving cars will improve road safety by eliminating human error or things such as suffering from medical conditions while at the wheel.

“5G-enabled autonomous vehicles can help alleviate traffic jams and prevent accidents,” Sunwoo Myoungho, ACE Lab’s director, said in a press briefing. “Our final goal is aimed at significantly reducing human errors and improving safety on roads.”

South Korea planned to switch on its 5G network this month but it now faces delays arising from production issues of supporting devices as well as disagreements between the government and telcos over the price of plans.

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