K-City testing ground puts 5G in the driver’s seat

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K-City testing ground puts 5G in the driver’s seat

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Korea’s Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon tests SK Telecom’s 5G-based car hailing service at K-City in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, on Monday. [SK TELECOM]

Korean mobile carriers are scrambling to come up with services that actually work on the next-generation 5G network currently exclusively available to business customers, such as aiding autonomous driving and smart construction.

As 5G-enabled smartphones are not yet commercially available, carriers are offering 5G connections via mobile routers that take 5G signals and convert them into super-fast Wi-Fi.

K-City, a testing ground for self-driving cars in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, is also equipped with its own localized 5G network. The complex was officially opened on Monday after a year and four months of construction that began in August last year. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said the 110,000-pyeong (90-acre) testing ground is the first in the world to have a 5G telecommunications network.

At the opening ceremony held Monday, mobile carriers SK Telecom and KT showed off what they have to offer in the 5G era in the auto industry.

SK Telecom introduced its vehicle-to-everything technology, which enables drivers to control cars and the conditions inside cars remotely.

As Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, who participated in the opening ceremony, hailed an autonomous driving car by putting in the area of departure and his destination on his smartphone app, a parked car drove itself for about 500 meters (1,640 feet) toward the building where Lee was. Lee was able to see the handles moving and the car approaching in a real-time video feed as well.

Korea’s largest mobile carrier said the car was able to move as a 5G telecommunications module mounted on it was able to share information with traffic infrastructure within the Hwaseong complex.

While such hailing services are yet to be offered on real roads, SK Telecom said such 5G-based car hailing services will be able to let customers rent out cars by calling the cars right up to their doorsteps in the future.

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KT’s test car for 5G-based autonomous driving technology. [KT]

KT showed off its so-called 5G remote cockpit. When drivers are hurt or unfit to drive they can press an “emergency car” button installed inside the vehicle and an autonomous driving system set up by KT takes over. The car will then move to a safe area on a nearby side road or contact ambulances if drivers need medical care, KT said.

As the autonomous car industry is expected to grow into a 210 trillion won ($186 billion) market by 2020 and 1,300 trillion won market by 2035, according to market tracker Navigant Research, the carriers and the Land Ministry said they hope K-City will become a cornerstone of Korea’s development of 5G-based self-driving technologies.

On Monday, SK Telecom also inked partnerships with construction machinery maker Hyundai Construction Equipment and GPS technology company Trimble to codevelop 5G-based smart construction technologies. The three companies said they will enhance safety at construction sites by deploying sensors on machinery, like excavators and forklift trucks, and also develop solutions to predict errors with machines and fix them before they become an issue.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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