SK Telecom completes test run of self-driving car on highway

SK Telecom autonomous car (SK Telecom)
The vehicle demonstration took place on the Gyeongbu Expressway, the most heavily traveled expressway in Korea. (SK Telecom)

Operators in the U.S. have conducted some stunning 5G demos with cars, but SK Telecom is taking it to a new level, announcing it has successfully tested its self-driving vehicle in public.

The vehicle demonstration took place on the Gyeongbu Expressway— the most heavily traveled expressway in Korea—and the vehicle traveled about 26 kilometers, from the Seoul Service Area to the Suwon-Shingal Interchange, averaging 30 mph and hitting up to around 50 mph. (The software was designed not to exceed 80 kilometers per hour in accordance with the government regulation on test driving autonomous vehicles.)

The self-autonomous car analyzed real-time speed and distances from adjacent cars, according to BusinessKorea. At Pangyo IC, the vehicle checked surrounding data such as road signs and driving lanes and moved in the direction of Suwon after securing safety distances from nearby vehicles, the publication reported.  

“Following today’s successful test-driving of our autonomous vehicle on an expressway, we will continue to test our self-driving cars on downtown roads, national highways and motorways,” said Park Jin-hyo, senior vice president and head of Network R&D Center of SK Telecom, in a press release. “Furthermore, we will connect self-driving vehicles to our 5G trial networks to advance technologies that can significantly enhance driving safety via IoT and real-time communication with the control tower.”

SK Telecom in July received a license from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport for testing its autonomous driving car on local roads. SK Telecom’s Vehicle Tech Lab has been working closely with diverse partners, including a Seoul National University team led by Professor Lee Kyeong-soo, Nvidia and LG Electronics, to develop self-driving technologies such as artificial intelligence computer, sensors, communication and route determination/tracing, the operator said.

Last year, SK Telecom and Ericsson conducted what they described as the first multivehicular 5G trials with BMW, the first such trials after the 5G Automotive Alliance announced its formation. They recently were recognized for their work with a TechXLR8 award during 5G World in London this past June.

During the trial, Ericsson and SK Telecom successfully deployed network slicing and 5G radio network infrastructure to cover a complete test track at the BMW driving center in Yeongjong-do, South Korea. The trial with connected test cars showed that 5G performance will support V2X (vehicular connectivity) services that require low latency and consistent high bi-directional throughput.

Ericsson is using its 5G trial system to support multiple trial engagements with different operators around the world.