It’s been a tough ride for 5G – let’s just say that there were some not so minor hiccups for the technology and not everyone was on board with this new protocol. Yet, it has been rolled out and is gaining momentum as more and more users swap their old smartphones with newer, 5G-enabled models. Apart from helping us browse faster, it can also facilitate the implementation of many modern technologies, including smart public transportation. Let’s explore how 5G will bring a new era to the transit industry.
But first… What exactly is 5G?
5G is a technology upgrade to older network standards (3G, 4G, etc.). It offers a substantial improvement on many levels, some of which are ultra-low latency, increased availability, high connection density and increased traffic capacity. While it is not a prerequisite for the move towards smart cities on its own, it can facilitate the deployment of smart sensors and devices, thus improving our current smart arsenal, and paving the way for exciting new case uses.
5G: how it works
Just like its predecessors, 5G is OFDM-based (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing). Unlike them, it can further enhance ODFM, resulting in better scalability and flexibility. 5G networks rely on super-high-frequency airwaves (high-band spectrum), and as higher frequency means more data transmitted faster, it is potentially 100 times faster than 4G. It will not only deliver faster but also qualitatively better broadband services, which enables us to tap into the potential of massive IoT.
How will the rollout of 5G affect transportation?
Improved connectivity can significantly improve the current implementation of smart technologies in the transit sector. MaaS is one of the most important aspects of this improvement – real-time communication between different platforms is now possible. All transit options can be integrated seamlessly within one application, with no loss of data between parties as they move through the system. Including bikes, e-scooters, DRT and other on-demand services can increase the efficiency of the transit network thus prompting new users to join. As a result, there will be fewer personal vehicles on the road – and less CO2 emissions.
Security is another facet that can be explored. As broadband transmission will allow more data packages to be sent and received, surveillance cameras onboard public transit vehicles can serve multiple functions: monitoring the conduct of riders and reporting emergencies inside the vehicles, as well as the situation outside of the vehicles. One such project is already under way, helping the City of NY tackle bus lane parking violations in several corridors. It has proven to be a win in increasing the speed of buses in the respective corridors and has been further expanded.
Real-time data is crucial – not only for riders’ convenience in the form of digital schedules synchronized and updated in real time, but also for their safety. During the pandemic, one of the most important types of protection was distancing. With the help of real-time readership data, vehicles that are not overpopulated could be chosen, thus helping people keep their distance. It could also mean the timely dispatch of relief vehicles when overcrowding occurs on specific lines.
Finally, improvements in the intelligent traffic systems will directly affect the performance of public transit vehicles. Using more and better sensors and cameras, traffic can be distributed better, thus reducing congestion or even completely eliminating them.
As we enter a new era of connectivity, many people turn their eyes to autonomous vehicles. This type of mobility also has the potential to benefit from 5G and further improvements of the network protocols. This is possible due to the low latency and increased traffic might of the 5G network – as autonomous vehicles need an incredible data processing power to send and receive information from city systems and their own sensors. Of course, we still have a long way to go with regulations and technology, but driverless cars are one step closer to becoming the new normal.
An integrated approach is, therefore, the best option to optimize transit in small cities: creating an ecosystem of CAD/AVL, fare collection and micro-mobility solutions based on usage insights can significantly improve the performance and user satisfaction rates of public transportation. All of these tasks can be successfully handled by intelligent transportation platforms like Modeshift.
5G & the future
5G will not be the last improvement – and as we get used to having faster connectivity, engineers will keep pushing the limits until they can deliver 6G, then 7G and 8G. Who knows what this decade of rapid technological advancements will bring? We wonder what happens next.