Rollout of autonomous vehicles requires improvement in 4G networks

A recent investigation revealed that the UK’s decision to implement driverless cars is being hampered by a combination of poor infrastructure in the form of weak broadband and 4G networks, and poor road quality.

Produced by KPMG, the report titled “The 2019 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index” surveyed 25 countries across the world for their willingness to adopt driverless vehicles onto their roads and into society. Ranked on the four categories of technology and innovation, policy and legislation, infrastructure, and consumer acceptance, the UK was found to be in seventh place, behind Singapore, Norway and the United States of America.

The UK performed well in all categories apart from infrastructure, where the country was found to be lacking due to having one of the lowest scores for 4G coverage. As driverless cars work at their optimal levels when connected to traffic systems and can communicate with surrounding cars – without a reliable and strong mobile connection, such activity is consequently inhibited.

The report stated: “The UK faces challenges concerning digital and physical infrastructure, especially since investments in this sector take time to bear fruit. It lags behind other countries in 4G coverage, global connectivity, quality of roads (especially smaller roads) and logistics infrastructure. Promisingly, extensive investments are being made in 5G to connect 5G test beds and test tracks.”

Last year’s “Connection Nations 2018” report commissioned by Ofcom revealed that the outdoor 4G network coverage across the UK was only at a meagre 66 per cent; albeit, this is an improvement from the 43 per cent it was in 2017.

There are, however, improvements to be made and expected in the next couple of years. With the auction of the 700MHz band, coverage will be extended, bringing the figure to 90 per cent across the UK’s entire geographical land mass. Operators are also working towards goals to construct 500 new mobile mast stations in rural areas so as to increase connectivity, and boost network links as a result.