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How 6G networking will solve your city’s traffic problems

Added to IoTplaybook or last updated on: 01/14/2022
How 6G networking will solve your city’s traffic problems

Somewhere near you is a road or highway that was notorious for bad traffic. After years of debate, the local government devoted funds for expansion and added a lane in each direction. Those new lanes opened after another few years of construction, which further exacerbated the traffic problems. Now, traffic is as bad as it was before the expansion because the city’s population grew during that time.

This scenario plays out regularly across the United States and the rest of the world, but 6G networking could help.

We should see 6G within the next decade. Experts expect 6G to deliver speeds 100 times faster than 5G, which is a much more dramatic jump than that from 4G to 5G. But the real benefit of 6G is the low latency. 5G air latency is about 5 milliseconds, while 6G air latency could be a low as 100 microseconds. That means a data packet transmits 50 times faster over 6G compared to 5G. That low latency will be crucial for communication between autonomous vehicles and easing traffic congestion.

We build new road infrastructure or expand what exists, but those efforts never keep up with demand. In 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the average American commute grew to a record 27.6 minutes each way. Compare that to an average of 25 minutes back in 2006.

A U.S. Department of Transportation report from 2003 showed that the average commute distance was 15 miles. That works out to an average of 32.6 mph over the course of the typical American’s commute.

If we could somehow increase that speed to 60 mph, the average commute time would drop to a far more palatable 15 minutes. It might be possible to achieve that by adding more lanes to congested roadways, but we’ve already seen how well that goes.

Intelligent traffic flow is a better solution.

Three causes of traffic congestion are consistent across the country.

First, traffic lights and stop signs at intersections halt traffic. Second, large numbers of commuters follow the same routes and crowd popular roads. Third, are “traffic waves,” which occur when a small disturbance, such as someone unexpectedly braking on a highway, causes a snowball effect that results in following vehicles coming to a standstill.

Cities attempt to alleviate the first problem with roundabouts and synchronized traffic lights. Roundabouts still slow down traffic and even the most well-synchronized traffic lights can’t keep every driver from hitting a red light. Internet-connected navigation apps with real-time traffic updates help commuters avoid congested roads, but sometimes there are no alternative routes. Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) help to stop sudden braking, which might reduce the severity of traffic waves, but they don’t eliminate the effect altogether.

What’s the solution?

6G networking and self-driving cars could make traffic congestion a thing of the past. Imagine a world in which every car in a city was autonomous and able to communicate with every other car. That communication would require a massive amount of bandwidth, but 6G networking technology can handle it.

How can these technologies reduce commute times?

Imagine riding in your self-driving car to work and never hitting a single red light. This is possible with 6G networking. If the city’s traffic lights update their status to a central server that the car can access, then the car can speed up or slow down to ensure that the light is always green when the car reaches an intersection.

If we take that idea further, traffic lights could become unnecessary. If all the cars on the road are autonomous and communicating with each other through 6G, they can coordinate intersection crossings. If a car is approaching an intersection, it could adjust its speed as necessary to slip through the gaps in the cross traffic. Without traffic lights, traffic can flow unimpeded.

Real-time communications

Self-driving cars could also communicate in real time to determine which routes have light traffic. Even better, autonomous vehicles make private car ownership unnecessary. After a commuter gets to work, the car they were riding in could drive off to pick up another passenger. This would result in a dramatic reduction in the number of cars on the road and the number of parking spaces a city requires, benefitting everyone on multiple levels.

Traffic waves would be reduced by autonomous vehicles in general since they can respond to a braking car in a reasonable manner. But with 6G networking, a car that must perform emergency braking could communicate its status and the road conditions to the following cars, giving them advance notice and plenty of time to react without creating a traffic wave. Emergency braking itself would also be unnecessary in this world, under normal conditions.

The nearly instantaneous inter-vehicle communication provided by 6G networking is the key to these solutions. A car travelling a 60 mph will cover 88 feet in one second, so a fraction of a second is more than enough to make the difference between a collision and a safe maneuver. On a practical level, 6G will keep communication delays from adding to a vehicle’s reaction time.

Self-driving vehicles as the norm

6G will roll out sometime around 2030, but it will take a lot longer for these traffic solutions to come into play. Today’s autonomous vehicle technology can handle traffic waves and route optimization, but we won’t be able to phase out traffic lights until every car on the road is self-driving. A single manually driven car passing through an intersection would make it impossible for the surrounding autonomous vehicles to coordinate their movements in a safe and efficient manner.

But at some point, self-driving cars will become the norm.

All the current evidence indicates that it won’t be long after that before they become mandated. The safety benefits are too vast for that not to be the case. The improved traffic flow would provide economic and social benefits that we won’t be able to ignore.

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Avnet

This content is provided by our content partner Avnet, a global technology solutions provider with end-to-end ecosystem capabilities. Visit them online for more great content like this.

This article was originally published at Avnet. It was added to IoTplaybook or last modified on 01/14/2022.