Above shows 5G smart road concept.
One of the things that 5G will help deliver is smart roads and smart cities, and the West Midlands looks set to start working on that soon, as £3 million is going to be spent on 5G sensors along key roads in the region.
The project will be funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and will involve the installation of roughly 280 5G road network sensors across the Key Route Network (KRN), which includes roads such as the A34, A38 and A45.
According to a tender submitted by the WMCA, looking for bidders for the project, these sensors would use the increased speed, reliability, and lower latency of 5G to deliver accurate data on transport habits across the West Midlands.
This data would then be used to “facilitate better real time planning of the region's road network, resulting in a safer, more efficient, well maintained and managed network.”
While the tender doesn’t go into much more detail, it’s easy to imagine that this could mean improving traffic flow, tweaking road layouts, and being aware of problems as soon as they emerge.
Unlocking 5G's potential
And that might just be the beginning. The WMCA also says that this will help with “unlocking potential new mobility business models and services which rely on accurate network intelligence”, and “provide the opportunity to test new capabilities provided through 5G communications.”
Indeed, while not mentioned here, 5G-powered smart roads will be key in the roll out of driverless vehicles, so that could be one potential result of this work, beyond just making travel smoother, safer and more environmentally friendly through optimisations.
However, this is still going to be years away, as even the sensors aren’t expected to be fully placed until August 2023. But it’s a promising look at the potential of 5G technology beyond faster smartphone data, and along with other projects, such as the UK's first 5G accelerator, it could help make the West Midlands a 5G powerhouse.