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SoftBank and Honda Forge Partnership to Develop 5G for Driverless Cars

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【Summary】SoftBank and Honda researchers will develop different techniques to improve data management and transfer between 5G hubs and fast-moving cars.

Michael Cheng    Nov 25, 2017 10:55 AM PT
SoftBank and Honda Forge Partnership to Develop 5G for Driverless Cars

Autonomous vehicles require a myriad of cutting-edge components for operation. For reliable connectivity, driverless cars will leverage highly anticipated fifth-generation networks (5G).

At the moment, several leading automotive companies developing autonomous vehicles are waiting for the new technology to supersede the current 4G standards. To streamline adoption and in order to stay ahead of the competition, Honda is partnering with SoftBank to accelerate research and testing. In Japan, the collaboration will focus solely on connected technology and driverless cars.

"Covering vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and internet-connectivity technologies, SoftBank and Honda will work toward creating new on-board antennas to facilitate communications between high-speed vehicles while also looking at ways to support ‘recovery' technologies for areas with weak signals," explained Paul Sawers from Venture Beat.

New 5G Projects

Both parties are making massive contributions in the collaboration. In 2018, the duo will launch a handful of 5G projects. SoftBank plans to setup 5G stations around Honda Takasu Proving Ground, which is located in Takasu-cho, Kamikawa-gun (Hokkaido, Japan). The site hosts a closed test course for trialing new automotive platforms. 

SoftBank and Honda researchers will develop different techniques to improve data management and transfer between 5G hubs and fast-moving cars. For driverless vehicles, a reliable network can significantly boost safety on the road. When the car's sensors are ‘outside the line of sight' it could communicate with other vehicles on the road or the city network, using 5G stations, for real-time updates about the environment.

"Through mmWave bands and advances in wireless and antenna technology, 5G is expected to deliver multi-gigabit speeds for mobile usages. The industry expects 5G speeds to be capable of up to 10GB per second, over 600 times faster than today's fastest average LTE speeds in the US," said Honda.

Even at the nascent stages of 5G development, competition in the automotive sector is fierce. In another partnership, this time between Toyota and NTT DOCOMO (supported by Ericsson and Intel), engineers were able to stream 4K video, between a 5G station and a moving vehicle.

SoftBank's Ride-hailing Interests

SoftBank, which is the sixth largest telecommunications company in the world (with $74.7 billion in revenue), is keen on diversifying its portfolio in the automotive space. According to a Financial Times report, the company is in the process of solidifying a major position in the ride-hailing market.

It's important to highlight that the establishment's ride-hailing portfolio includes Didi Chuxing in China, which serves over 450 million customers across 400 cities, and Grab, which operates an expansive network in Asia with over 1,000,000 registered customers.

Currently, the business is negotiating a deal with Tiger Global, to buy all of its shares in ANI Technologies, the parent company of India-based Ola. In the country, the local ride-hailing brand is competing with Uber. SoftBank already has a 25 percent share in the startup; and should the deal come to fruition, it could become the largest shareholder in Ola.

Outside of the ride-hailing space, SoftBank's investments in India includes e-commerce giant Flipkart ($1.4 billion) and e-payments provider Paytm ($2.5 billion).

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