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COMMENT: The safety promise of 5G hinges on data storage

Building the optimal foundation for data to be captured, preserved, accessed and transformed will be key to enabling safe, connected vehicles. By Russ Ruben

While 5G is still in its infancy, it is estimated that it will account for 20% of global connections by 2025. Offering data speeds up to 10 Gbps—approximately 100 times faster than the previous generation—and latency as low as 1ms, 5G networks will not only impact what we can do with our personal mobile devices, like phones and tablets, they will also be the spring board for the next revolution in the automotive industry.

With the volumes of data that will be flowing through them, 5G networks will also have a direct impact on automotive safety, especially across three areas.

Key impact areas

Next-generation connected maps: Current maps are already updated with live traffic conditions, but they will evolve to take in and deliver much more information in real-time. Through an increased number of sensors and cameras, vehicles will be constantly surveying the road and their surroundings. When a vehicle locates new roads, construction or a change in the number of lanes or lane location, it will send that information to the cloud, from where it will be shared with other vehicles, pedestrians and roadside units.

Improved communications: V2X (vehicle-to-everything) communication is the technology that allows cars to exchange data with other parts of the traffic system, such as vehicles, infrastructure and pedestrians. 5G technology will allow cars to use the direct PC5 interface (where one device can communicate with another over a direct channel) as well as the Uu interface, which uses mobile phone towers for radio access network. 5G will bring the ability to communicate up to 600m for PC5 direct communication, and up to 2km with Uu. This means V2X will incorporate far more moving parts in the vehicle’s view and provide more time (through larger distance) to react to road conditions ahead, such as accidents, lane closures, icy or wet roads, and debris.

The PC5 interface also allows the vehicle to communicate with pedestrians and cyclists via their mobile phones and other devices, preventing accidents resulting from blind corners or people entering the street between cars. Both the vehicle and the pedestrian or cyclist would be notified in time to take appropriate action.

Automated software updates: While over-the-air (OTA) software updates already exist for some vehicles, they will become standard in the future. Vehicles are set to have a greater number and type of applications, sensors and cameras, all of which will rely on interdependent services. These applications will need to be regularly maintained, and will be updated via 5G, through the vehicle’s OTA module. These types of updates will become as common, and as frequent, as the smart phone updates we’re accustomed to.

More data, more storage

Connected cars are continuously pushing and receiving different kinds of data and are beginning to look more like small data centres as a result. Data storage plays a central role in the management of maps, V2X security keys, application software, data logging and OTA buffering. The millions of lines of software code that already exist in vehicles are, and will continue to be, stored in each vehicle on NAND flash-based products, which don’t require power to retain data.

They also ensure that data is securely stored and can be moved optimally and reliably between the different auto systems at all times, while also alleviating performance bottlenecks, providing increased capacity to handle more on-board data and delivering high reliability even when subjected to vibration or changes in temperature. And with the use of V2X going beyond just vehicles, storage will also be vital in roadside units, smart city devices such as traffic signals and the edge and cloud data centres that gather and process this ecosystem of data.

5G is set to open the doors to a new era in automotive safety and a vehicle’s connectivity experience will be determined by its capacity to move data as fast as its 5G network allows. Building the optimal foundation for data to be captured, preserved, accessed and transformed, will therefore be key to enabling drivers and passengers to be safer on the road.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Russ Ruben is Director, Global Automotive, at Western Digital

The Automotive World Comment column is open to automotive industry decision makers and influencers. If you would like to contribute a Comment article, please contact

Forward-Looking Statements:

This article may contain forward-looking statements, including statements relating to expectations for Western Digital’s storage products, the automotive market for these products, and future capabilities and technologies for those markets. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements, including development challenges or delays, supply chain and logistics issues, changes in markets, demand, global economic conditions and other risks and uncertainties listed in Western Digital Corporation’s most recent quarterly and annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, to which your attention is directed. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements and we undertake no obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.


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