Vodafone are pretty proud of their 4G network and have found a pretty brilliant way of showcasing its capabilities. The team mounted 3x Samsung Galaxy S7s to the front of a BMW M6, 3x Galaxy S2 tablets to the inside the windscreen, threw in 5x Supercars champion Mark Skaife behind the wheel and covered the windscreen so he couldn’t see.
The footage from the smartphones are sent over Vodafone’s 4G network to the nearest tower, then streamed down to the 3x tablets in front of Skaife, creating a virtual windscreen, given the actual one is now covered. With remarkable faith in his own technology, last month, the CEO of Vodafone Australia, Iñaki Berroeta jumped in the passenger seat and asked Skaife to cut a few laps of the circuit.
Sounds crazy right?
The biggest threat here is latency. Much like the latency issues with delivering high bandwidth graphics from your PC to VR headset, if there’s delay in the signal, the system fails, so in that sense, this is a great test for a mobile network. If the car is to make the corners of the race track safely and not end up with an M6 in pieces, the split second inputs to the steering needs to be reflected on the digital windscreen (tablets) in front of the driver.
Fortunately things worked out well and Skaife returned the M6 undamaged, however the same can’t be said for his M6 GT3 yesterday during the Bathurst 12hr (looking at you Russell Ingall.
If you think Skaife was taking it easy during the laps, think again, the speedo at one point clearly heads north of 90km/hr.
Once you realise the system works, you start to consider what the experience would be like. It’d feel an awful lot like you’re in the best driving simulator in the world, one that delivers where all others fail, the real feeling of geforces on your body, real smells of burning rubber and real in-car temperatures.
With a digital video of the real track being relayed to the driver, there’s a massive opportunity here – Augmented Reality Driving. Imagine you’re an up and coming racing driver and looking for tips to improve. You can study the data about what you need to change in your turn in points, braking markers and throttle percentage.
What if that video was augmented with overlays like we have in video games to highlight these items to developing race car drivers. What if there were virtual opponents displayed, or display an accident and see how the driver reacts. There’s a massive opportunity here and what started out as a nifty PR stunt, actually surfaced an incredible opportunity to develop a driving platform.
When we look into the future of autonomous vehicles, there’s actually a very high possibility that we’ll need to block out the windows as the precision at which vehicles could maneuver through lanes and intersections would terrify occupants, but deliver the much needed efficiency to help congestion and reduce travel times. Only with great 4G/5G networks will we be able to entertain all occupants during a commute or weekend trip away, so having mobile networks capable of extraordinary speeds is quickly going to become a requirement, not an option.