Multiaccess Edge Compute is Driving the Future of Mobility

MEC is the key to making connected vehicles safer and more efficient

Doron Hendel
Multiaccess Edge Compute is Driving the Future of Mobility

The mobility industry is changing rapidly. According to the recently released Equinix Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 5, transportation is one of the sectors experiencing the fastest digital infrastructure growth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As mobility players look for opportunities to rebound from the pandemic, many of them are rethinking their entire business—and the digital infrastructure that supports that business.

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic is merely reinforcing mobility industry trends that have been underway for years now: customers expect innovation, and enterprises are investing massive amounts of money to give them what they expect. Businesses have pumped almost $330 billion into mobility technologies since 2010, with over $80 billion of that amount coming since 2019. Autonomous vehicles and smart mobility have been particularly attractive targets for investment, accounting for about two-thirds of the total number ($206 billion).[1]

How edge computing for automotive services will support the new age of vehicular mobility

Connectivity is critical as we move toward an age of intelligent and automated vehicular mobility ushered in by the implementation of high-speed 5G networks.

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New technologies mean new possibilities for smart mobility

One of the main reasons there’s so much interest surrounding autonomous vehicles and smart mobility is that new technologies are coming to maturity, creating exciting new possibilities. For instance, new wireless 5G networks help ensure the low latency that smart mobility demands. However, 5G on its own is not enough to take smart mobility mainstream.

Multiaccess edge compute (MEC) is the missing piece of the puzzle needed to kick-start the future of mobility. This new approach to edge computing helps autonomous vehicles connect to digital ecosystems and execute digital transactions in near real-time.

Overcoming the limitations of proximity

For smart mobility to be feasible, connected vehicles must be fully aware of their surroundings at all times. This means they must be able to pull data from sensors and other connected resources, process that data, and then react to the data in near real-time. There’s simply no room in this equation for delays caused by latency.

In the past, the very nature of time and space have stood in the way of smart mobility truly taking off. The latency cap for some autonomous driving use cases is so low that the distance the data must travel can make all the difference. Even with data travelling at the speed of light, it would be physically impossible to keep latency low enough using cloud services located hundreds of miles away from the endpoints. To ensure extremely low latency, edge nodes need to be as close as possible to the vehicle or sensor initiating the transaction. This low latency is required to support MEC use cases such as augmenting in-vehicle sensors for safety or providing in-time updates to connected vehicles.

MEC for the automotive industry (MEC4Auto) was designed specifically to enable vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications, particularly as it pertains to augmenting in-vehicle systems and reducing latency. This helps build upon the vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) connectivity provided by the automotive OEMs, adding seamless integration with multiple service providers, networks and other complementary technologies.

New smart mobility use cases drive better results across the board

In this post, we’ll be taking a quick look at a few examples of smart mobility use cases enabled by MEC4Auto. However, when it comes to smart mobility use cases, the only limit to the possibilities is our own imaginations. As MEC4Auto, 5G and other related technologies continue to mature and gain higher adoption rates, new never-before-considered use cases are sure to emerge.

Keeping vulnerable road users safe with real-time awareness

Pedestrians and cyclists are highly vulnerable to impact with vehicles. Connected vehicles can use MEC4Auto technology to get real-time updates about the status and location of these vulnerable road users and use those updates to help keep VRUs safe.

Multiaccess edge compute (MEC) is the missing piece of the puzzle needed to kick-start the future of mobility. This new approach…helps autonomous vehicles connect to digital ecosystems and execute digital transactions in near real-time."

As the graphic below shows, MEC4Auto serves as the messaging bridge between the vehicle and the sensors around it. The MEC4Auto architecture takes in data from multiple devices across different networks, processes it in milliseconds using edge nodes, and then relays it back to connected vehicles to enable real-time awareness and visibility.

In order to support the VRU use case, MEC4Auto functions as an independent broker between systems, networks and users. It provides a mechanism to aggregate messages across the connected environment, enhancing safety and augmenting existing in-vehicle systems.

Bridging the gap between human-centered driving and autonomous vehicles

Using fully autonomous vehicles to ensure safety, reduce congestion and increase efficiency is a key goal for the future of smart mobility. However, autonomous vehicle technology has yet to mature to the point where it would be viable for widespread adoption. Tele-operated driving serves as an important intermediate step between human-centered driving and autonomous driving—one that is ready to be deployed immediately.

Tele-operated driving occurs when an operator takes control of a vehicle remotely. It can be used for regulatory reasons, such as allowing autonomous trucks to operate safely on the same roads as traditional human-operated trucks. In addition, tele-operated driving can be used for emergency remote takeover in case of advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) failure, or whenever an autonomous vehicle appears to be operating erratically for any reason. As with all other smart mobility use cases, tele-operated driving requires the kind of near real-time transactions that are only possible with a robust edge computing infrastructure.

Equinix offers the infrastructure and ecosystem needed to support MEC4Auto

As the world’s digital infrastructure company™, Equinix is uniquely positioned to help enterprises and service providers capitalize on the opportunities presented by MEC for smart mobility. With Platform Equinix®, digital leaders get access to a global network of more than 230 data centers across 67 markets, making it easier to manage the massive amounts of data connected vehicles create and deploy edge infrastructure where they need it the most.

In addition, our partner ecosystem of more than 1,800 network service providers and 3,000 cloud and IT service providers makes us a natural choice for MEC use cases that require access to data from multiple sources. With software-defined interconnection leveraging Equinix Fabric™, members of the smart mobility ecosystem get a neutral, independent place to connect with their platforms and partners, while sharing data and executing transactions in a way that treats all partners equally.

To learn more about MEC4Auto and how Equinix can help make it a reality, read the TechTarget white paper “How edge computing for automotive services will support the new age of vehicular mobility.”

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Check out the Equinix connected vehicles landing page to learn more about how we’re helping turn vehicle data into value.

 

 

[1] McKinsey & Company, “Mobility’s future: An investment reality check”. Authors: Daniel Holland-Letz, Matthias Kässer, Benedikt Kloss, and Thibaut Müller. April 14, 2021.

The MEC4Auto architecture takes in data from multiple devices across different networks, processes it in milliseconds using edge nodes, and then relays it back to connected vehicles to enable real-time awareness and visibility.“