Docomo and DeNA to trial 5G communications system for self-driving shuttles


Two Japanese telecommunications and connected services companies are going to trial a 5G cellular communications system for self-driving vehicles this week.

Japan’s largest telecommunications company, NTT Docomo, and DeNA Co Ltd, a developer and operator of mobile and online services, have jointly announced their agreement to trial a 5G mobile-communications system that is expected to enhance the safety of self-driving vehicles through remote monitoring and passenger assistance.

Docomo serves over 71 million mobile customers in Japan via advanced wireless networks, including a nationwide LTE network and one of the world’s most progressive LTE-Advanced networks. The company is a leading developer of a 5G network that it plans to deploy by 2020, as well as network function virtualization (NFV), NFC (near field communication) infrastructure and services, and emerging Internet of Things (IoT) systems. DeNA’s diversified offerings include e-commerce, entertainment, automotive, and smart mobility systems and services.

The trial will be demonstrated during Docomo R&D Open House 2016, which will take place at the company’s R&D Center in the Yokosuka Research Park near Yokohama on November 17 and 18. In July, DeNA announced a partnership with French company EasyMile to launch the ‘Robot Shuttle’ service inside the Toyosuna Park in Chiba Prefecture, using EasyMile’s EZ10 driverless electric shuttle bus. The EZ10 can transport 12 passengers, six seated and six standing, and has a top speed of 25mph (40km/h), although it is normally operated at about 12mph (20km/h). During this week’s event, DeNA’s Robot Shuttle driverless bus will be used to demonstrate the transmission of a live video feed from the vehicle via Docomo’s 5G network.

In the trial, a vehicle and a remote center will be connected via a 5G network that boasts ultra-high-speed data rates beyond 10Gbps, excess capacity, extra-low latency, and massive connectivity, compared with existing mobile communications systems. For the initial trial, high-resolution video images captured with high-definition cameras mounted on the vehicle will be transferred in real-time via the 5G network, which will allow the center to check for any driving irregularities and provide passengers with assistance as required.

The collaboration, which will combine Docomo’s 5G wireless technologies and DeNA’s expertise in services incorporating self-driving technologies, aims to realize extra-safe driverless systems for remote monitoring and assistance. Docomo is leading the research and development of LTE and 5G systems for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) and IoT communications in Japan. DeNA has collaborated with several leading Japanese companies in multiple industries, and is currently developing smart mobility and transportation services that use self-driving and advanced infrastructure technologies.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).