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Toyota, NTT partnering on autonomous cars

Japanese duo to tap 5G tech to improve safety

A self-driving test car Toyota Motor revealed March 3.

NAGOYA -- Toyota Motor will collaborate with Nippon Telegraph & Telephone on high-speed wireless technology in a push to commercialize even safer self-driving vehicles.

The two companies will jointly develop technology for connected cars utilizing fifth-generation signals, with the initiative to include big-data analysis and artificial intelligence applications. The duo plan to announce the partnership later this month, marking the first time Japanese auto manufacturing and telecom giants have collaborated on 5G.

Compared with the current 4G used for cellphones, the next-generation 5G technology is seen boosting connectivity speeds tenfold through the employment of higher frequencies. International standards for 5G may be set within the year.

The slower 4G speeds have been an impediment in the optimization of self-driving technology. The employment of 5G paves the way for such cars to transfer large volumes of data via roadside telecommunication equipment, while also keeping tabs on cars in neighboring or oncoming lanes.

This setup will allow onboard systems to monitor surrounding movements of vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists on multiple levels. The innovation is seen providing the level of safety needed for the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles. NTT, which is helping craft 5G standards, is expanding research and development in that area.

Toyota has recruited mobile carrier NTT Docomo and other companies to improve en route communications in the quest to hasten the viability of self-driving autos. The arrival of 5G is expected to herald other services, such as cloud-based streaming of high-definition videos to onboard screens. This could open the door to video conferences held by people riding in separate vehicles.

NTT will leverage 5G technology being developed by its main research arm as well as other group companies. The company will also provide assistance in AI. The partnership with Toyota will create an avenue for expansion into autonomous driving.

Toyota is already collaborating with domestic cellphone carrier KDDI to develop connected cars utilizing 4G signals. The automaker plans to retain KDDI's cooperation on 5G as well.

Other cross-industry partnerships involving self-driving vehicles are giving Toyota a run for its money. The Nissan Motor-Renault alliance has joined hands with Microsoft. Japan's Honda Motor and SoftBank are collaborating on AI. Germany's BMW, Daimler and Audi are working with U.S. chipmaker Intel and Swedish telecom equipment supplier Ericsson. And General Motors has formed a tie-up with AT&T on 4G technology.

(Nikkei)

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