Thanks to new super-fast 5G communications speeds, a team at the University of Warwick has been able to transmit potentially vital data to a driverless car nearly 40 times faster than fixed line broadband speeds allow.
In practical terms, it would mean a detailed satellite navigation map of Britain could be sent within a single second.
Dr Erik Kampert presented the pioneering work at the British Science Festival, where he detailed tests that had been carried out in a simulator laboratory and on a road.
He said 5G was crucial to advancing self-driving cars, complementing their multitude of sensors by providing extra information that can enhance vehicle and pedestrian safety.
“Using this technology will enable outside information to be communicated,” he told Sky News.
“Pedestrians do not behave like vehicles. Where there are vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorbikes, the extra information provided by our technology can help.”
The team at Warwick is also developing 80km of dedicated test road between Coventry and Birmingham, which will be fitted with extra cameras and communications devices when it opens next year.
But future progress in real-world settings is reliant on the roll-out of 5G, which is not widely available in the UK yet.
The research facilities at Warwick include a 5G test facility, which will aid the development of antennae and where these should be placed both within the car and along roads.
Buy-in from communications companies is also critical.
Bob Slorach, chief technology officer of Wireless Infrastructure Group, said: “This is an exciting step towards to the realisation and deployment of future 5G applications, like connected and autonomous vehicles, which will be enabled by fibre connected wireless infrastructure that supports high data rates and ultra-low latency mobile broadband.”