Robotic 5G Car Can Check For Fevers, ID Faces And Make Deliveries

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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China is embracing mobile tech for virus screening, testing robotic 5G cars that ID faces and check for fevers. “It will be difficult for U.S. to compete.” Photo: Xinhua/Ren Chao

At a time when human contact needs protection, robotic 5G cars are having a moment using next-generation networking technology for coronavirus-related screening.

The U.S. is easing off its lockdown to stop the spread of covid-19 while China says its outbreak has peaked. Models project a sharp increase in deaths as U.S. states reopen.

China is embracing the latest mobile technology to aid in screening, Venturebeat reported. In April, the Beijing Institute of Technology deployed a robotic 5G monitoring vehicle on its campus to make package deliveries and allow a remote operator to screen visitors from a safe distance.

The vehicle is too small to hold an adult but big enough to hold packages, telecommunications equipment, and audiovisual equipment. It can carry boxes and open doors to let people manually retrieve packages. It has a top-mounted camera that can swivel around to look at pedestrians, identifying them via facial recognition and also thermally scanning their temperatures, according to Chinese state-run press agency Xinhua.

Chinese companies were two to three years behind international rivals in the capabilities needed for self-driving cars, McKinsey & Co. said in a 2019 report, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Silicon Valley firms such as Google’s Waymo and General Motors Co.’s Cruise got a head start on testing driverless-car technology. This helped to give U.S. companies an early lead in sensor hardware, such as the cameras and radar needed to detect obstacles on the road. U.S. dominance of the semiconductor industry also gives American companies an edge in making the chips that will be the brains of 5G vehicles.

However, for China, “investments in technological infrastructure are made by the country as a civic priority, rather than by venture capitalists with an interest in successful commercial products,” Scott Fulton III wrote for ZDNet.

“In a near-term future where human contacts will need greater protection, and perhaps more substantive auditing and control, the driverless car could end up giving people greater control than they had before,” Fulton wrote.

Automation has a big role to play during a pandemic, when you just want to avoid human contact, said Prof. Robert W. Heath, Jr. of the University of Texas at Austin, in a ZDNet interview.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 70: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin goes solo to discuss the COVID-19 crisis. He talks about the failed leadership of Trump, Andrew Cuomo, CDC Director Robert Redfield, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and New York Mayor de Blasio.

Human connectivity is under seige during the coronavirus pandemic. The timing seems perfect for 5G. The fifth-generation mobile network, 5G is designed to provide more connectivity than was ever available before. It enables a new kind of network designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices.

In the long term, China is poised to come out ahead when it comes to 5G cars, Asa Fitch and Stu Woo wrote for the Wall Street Journal. China is already the world’s No. 1 auto market, and the country’s regulatory environment—such as restrictions on accessing maps on national-security grounds, as well as requiring foreign companies to partner with local ones—favors domestic champions trying to win the market there. Local players include Baidu, Didi Chuxing Technology Co. and Pony.ai.

“It will be difficult for American companies to be competitive,” says Nikolaj Herskind, of Scandinavian consulting firm Qvartz.