If I’m not driving, who is?

The lines between science fiction and reality are more and more becoming blurred. Things that 50 years ago were the stuff of novels, sending the readers on incredible journeys into what could be possible, are becoming commonplace in the world today.

One such instance is self driving cars.

Imagine yourself, sitting in your car, arms crossed lounging back in your seat watching the world pass by, when suddenly, red lights in front of you snap your attention back to the road. Before you think to grab the wheel and swerve to miss your rapidly approaching doom, your car casually signals the blinker and changes lanes swiftly cruising past the stopped traffic in the lanes next to you.

No this isn’t impossible, it is currently in existence. The car in question has eyes! Well, not actually eyes, but high tech gadgets and sensors that allow it to monitor the conditions of the road around you to include the other cars. One such sensor is a device called Lidar.

What is Lidar? Lidar is a sensor that sends out millions of beams of lasers (no sharks) and registers how long it takes them to come back. This allows the device to sense where objects are, how big they are, and how to best avoid running into them.

This technology was used on Apollo 15 to scan and map the surface of the moon. It has also been used to scan the bottom of the ocean to survey the ocean floor as well as scan from airplanes to penetrate through deep jungle to see the terrain underneath. I’ve also  witnessed it used to search for alien wreckage!

Elon Musk of Tesla believes camera can do the job of seeing for the cars instead of Lidar, and builds his cars that way. It is Google’s self driving car program, Waymo, that is heading up the Lidar use.

Unfortunately, in the recent news, a self driving (Google) car for Uber hit and killed a woman who was crossing the street with her bicycle. So, perhaps the technology has a ways to go before it is ready for the mass market. The makers of Lidar do insist that the issue doesn’t lie with their technology, but instead with the software that is designed to interpret what the Lidar sent it.

In the end, self driving cars may be here, but perhaps they are not quite ready for the mainstream highways. Perhaps once the technology is further developed we will see more and more of these driverless vehicles hit the road.

 

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So what exactly is 5G?

According to statista.com over 5 billion people in the world currently posses a cell phone. Without much argument, it can be agreed that the mobile revolution changed the world. The disagreements sit more around if the mobile change was a good or a bad thing. However, for the sake of this article, and having a technology based writing platform, I’m going to side on the fact that it is good. Along with the changing mobile technology in the form of your phone, connections behind your device have changed dramatically as well. So what does 5G mean anyway and why do I care which my phone uses?

To get an important piece of information out of the way, the “G” means generation.

When phones first came out, they existed on a network known as 1G. It allowed mobile phone users to make cell phone calls. 2G, which appeared a short time later, introduced text messages. 3G gave us data and the ability to surf the web. 4G came in several forms all of which worked to push the connection faster. Of those forms, LTE (Long Term Evolution) eventually won out due to its standardized system. From there, most people became familiar with 4G LTE.

On to 5G. AT&T and Verizon have both said that they plan to release 5G in several areas of the United States later on this year (2018). What does that mean for us? Well, to put it simple: faster speeds.

Currently, 4G LTE allows us to download about 1 gigabit per second. But wait, that is when the system works perfectly. When you have a tower in the exact place you need it, no buildings are around, North Korea isn’t jamming your signal, the contrails aren’t causing interference, and there happens to be no clouds of insects hovering nearby. The fact is, although the technology can reach 1 gigabit in speed, no one really ever gets there.

Enter 5G technology. 5G will allow our phones to reach speeds of 10 gigabits per second. This will give you the ability to download a full HD movie in just a few seconds vs. the old time of 20 minutes to an hour (depending on the roaming bug clouds).

Sure, we are going to have the same obstacles interfering with our 10 gigabit speed, but when you are no longer drinking out of a straw and instead you’ve turned on the faucet, a lot more gets through anyway.