Samsung closed out its CES press conference this evening with an update on 5G, including what it described as “the industry’s first 5G-ready automotive solution,” also known as the Telematics Control Unit (TCU). TCU is a product of Samsung’s collaboration with Harman, which prior to its late 2016 acquisition by Samsung was perhaps best known to consumers for JBL-branded speakers. Harman also had significant long-term involvement in car navigation systems.
The new TCU operates on the premise that over the next decade cars will no longer operate as “islands,” but rather as components of much larger and substantially connected traffic systems. With support for Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology, the Samsung/Harman 5G solution will enable cars to communicate directly with traffic lights, external traffic management systems, and other cars. In other words, TCU will serve as an individual car’s point of connection to the larger traffic network.
Samsung notes that its new TCU has been built to work with existing 4G Cat 16 (Gigabit LTE) networks, but the same platform will be able to connect to higher-bandwidth 5G networks in the future. The company also teased that it has “already signed with a leading European automaker” as the first customer for its solution. The identity of that automaker will be revealed at Samsung’s and Harman’s CES booths.
In addition to the new TCU, Samsung provided a brief refresher on its Intelligent Digital Cockpit platform that was discussed at last year’s CES. Samsung notes that the Intelligent Digital Cockpit is designed to merge the car’s instrument cluster and entertainment systems, unifying the dashboard, automotive system controls, climate controls, media, and more within a single panel — all benefitting from Harman audio solutions, Samsung’s Bixby assistant, and the cloud.
As just one example of unification of the technology, Harman’s Dinesh Paliwal noted that a driver could “see what groceries are in your family hub before you go to the market” through cameras embedded in a Samsung refrigerator. A video showed other possibilities, including remotely customizing a car to the specific driver about to enter it, games that jump from portable devices directly onto screens in the car, windshield HUD route guidance specific to a destination, and an automatic notification to the people at a destination that the vehicle has arrived.
Samsung promises additional updates on 5G at next month’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, including a partnership with KT Corporation. Tim Baxter, Samsung’s CEO and president of North America, noted that tests of 4G/5G interworking were successfully completed with SK Telecom and that the company has shown that 5G can be used to stream 8K video to a train going 60 miles an hour.
“5G will put fiber into your pocket,” said Baxter, who noted that widespread instantaneous connectivity will unlock everything from smart wearables to high-definition AR and VR, as well as “true smart cities.”