Here's an illustration of a lane of commuters choosing to enjoy the benefits of "platooning:" the next generation of highway technology.
A platoon is a line of cars very close together traveling (by definition) at exactly the same speed. Since they are so close together, platooning greatly decreases the wind resistance and greatly increases the density of cars on the highway.
A platoon is like a railroad train - but connections between the cars are not made of steel, they are made of data messages (!), and each car uses its own engine and brakes.
Two significant advantages to platooning are
- Saving money, and
- Saving money:
The vehicles in the platoon save money by using less energy thanks to drafting, well-known to race car drivers and Canada Geese alike.
The wind resistance, and so the cost of the energy needed to overcome it, is greatly diminished for the cars in the body of the platoon compared to driving solo.
The government saves money by increasing the capacity of existing highways - without pouring any concrete.
Not to mention the drivers' pleasure at zipping past everyone else stuck in traffic.
To make this happen safely, the cars will have on-board sensors and control of speed and direction. But they must also communicate messages to each other, to inform of changing conditions, particularly life-threatening ones.
One implementation would be for vehicles to communicate one to the next, relaying messages up and down the line. This has obvious problems with reliability and delay. A better solution is to give each vehicle a radio link to a centralized control system.
This link, requiring many users, high bandwidth and relatively low latency, is one of the applications of 5G.
The image above does not illustrate the "final answer". The red jeep is the platoon leader, but there are solo vehicles on the road. The central control system will close the gap between the red jeep and the solo car ahead, and the gap between the solo car and the truck. The truck will become the new platoon leader... at least until the next exit.
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