What is 5G? Well, if you asked that question 30 years ago, people would think you were referring to US$5,000 (i.e., “five grand”), which at the time represented more than a 50 percent down payment on an average new vehicle in America. Today, 5G means fifth-generation cellular network technology that envisions high data rates, reduced latency, orders of magnitude increase in bandwidth, and massive device connectivity.

With 5G, the promise of autonomous vehicles safely and efficiently gliding down roads and highways everywhere can become a reality. Such a promise, however, can only be achieved through the thoughtful setting of technology standards so that every vehicle is on the same page of a very complicated playbook of vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-network, vehicle-to-infrastructure, and vehicle-to-pedestrian communications, much of which will be covered by thousands and thousands of patents. If, for example, one OEM’s self-driving vehicle could not seamlessly and reliably communicate with another OEM’s self-driving vehicle, the promise of safer and more efficient personal transportation quickly falls apart. The questions of which patents cover the technology necessary to run this complicated communications playbook and how to license them represent a major issue for the automotive industry.

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