Road Trip! The Journey To Autonomous Vehicles

By Lisa Sandoval 12 min read

When it comes to the technological evolution behind connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), imagine…if you will…we are on a road trip together. And if you’ve ever been on an actual road trip, you know that the real fun is in the journey, not necessarily the destination.  

This metaphorical trip we’re on – moving from human control to full vehicle automation – promises to redefine mobility, operational efficiency, and safety in critical industries and beyond. Yet, much like my own road trips of years past, the path to fully autonomous vehicles has so far been filled with plenty of adventure – unexpected detours, exciting discoveries, and the occasional pit stop to reassess, refuel, and even reimagine where we’re headed. 

We are collectively speeding ahead toward the cutting-edge technology necessary to make moving from point A to point B easier, whether that be the need to move people in passenger vehicles or mission critical materials and goods. Regardless of who or what we’re transporting, to reach the “easier” destination of automated driving, there are some challenges we must first overcome.  


I simply cannot write a blog filled with road trip metaphors without first paying homage to this all too familiar phrase. “Are we there yet?” Whether you’ve braved a long car ride with a kid in the backseat, or you remember the good old days of being THE kid in the backseat yourself, we’ve all been there – feeling that spark of anticipation in reaching our journey’s destination.  

The same is true for fully autonomous vehicles – or quite literally, robotic cars – driving us around the roadways. When it comes to the Jetson’s visions of the future… “are we there yet?” Well, the truth is, “not quite.” But as my mom would say to seven-year-old me repeatedly,  “we’re getting there…look out the window and enjoy the ride.” 


Pioneers in various industries have already begun to chart their paths toward automation, showcasing remarkable achievements in the adoption of autonomous technologies. Within specific industry segments – think Oil & Gas, Utilities, Smart Cities, and Mining – some specialized CAVs are making good time on the road to autonomy. When you’re not facing the challenges associated with passenger safety and the legal complexities of sharing the roads with actual human drivers, automation can come to fruition much quicker and easier. So where are we today in critical industry vehicular automation?  


You might be surprised at some of the CAVs in development and even in operation today. 

  • Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), today are used to improve subsea monitoring and deep-sea exploration, collecting high-quality seismic data from the ocean floor to provide safer Oil & Gas exploration.  
  • AUVs and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are also being used in the Energy sector for regular inspection and maintenance on underwater maritime assets.  
  • Swarm Robotics, where hundreds of robots can work together to perform real-time maritime (or onshore) environmental monitoring, therefore exposing fewer human beings to potentially hazardous conditions. 
  • Autonomous Mining Trucks & Hauling Systems (AHS), which automate the transportation of materials within mining sites – enabling continuous production, significantly reducing operational costs, and reducing safety concerns due to human driving errors. 
  • Autonomous Industrial Drone Systems, which are AI-powered and can provide consistent and persistent real-time data of large-scale sites, or work in hazardous environments, while minimizing risks to humans. They provide: 
  • Critical infrastructure inspection of assets such as pipelines, tanks, windmills, power lines, substations, thermal structures, and more 
  • Early anomaly/risk detection of hazards such as gas leaks, fires, or smoke, preventing what could be disastrous consequences 
  • Theft and vandalism prevention 
  • Site surveys and mapping 
  • Security & access control to vulnerable sites 
  • Autonomous Vehicles for Public Transportation, with early “robotaxi” trials in California or other early-adopter locations. 
  • Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) Connectivity, enabling smart traffic flow management, as individual vehicles automatically communicate with city infrastructure such as traffic lights, communication towers, smart streetlights, broadband-enabled luminaires, and more. 
  • Industrial Mobility Autonomous Vehicles and Robots, working on factory floors, increasing worker safety and operational efficiencies. 



Challenges are akin to wrong turns and detours on this road trip to innovation. The most fundamental challenge in achieving fully autonomous vehicles is ensuring you first have an ultra-reliable, low latency communications network in place 

Imagine driving on an empty highway at dusk; just like you need clear visibility to get where you’re going, self-driving vehicles need strong, reliable, “always-on” digital communication. This is where private 5G connectivity comes in. It's the critical infrastructure that must precede the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles, notably within sectors like oil & gas, utilities, mining, public safety, and heavy industry, where precision and reliability are not just expectations but mission-critical requirements. 

Some challenges to achieving fully autonomous vehicles: 

  • Always-on, highly reliable wireless network infrastructure needed for data collection and automation 
  • Infrastructure upgrades needed 
  • Adoption of new legal & regulatory frameworks 
  • Cybersecurity threats 
  • Sensor accuracy and reliability 
  • Social & cultural resistance 

Each bend in the road throws up questions about interoperability, cybersecurity, and the seamless integration of complex systems. Yet, with every challenge comes an opportunity to adapt and grow. With the right future-proof network infrastructure in place and seamless interconnectivity between all assets running smoothly, resolution to other challenges will naturally follow. 


En route to full automation, the vistas are breathtaking for heavy industries. Automation, powered by the backbone of 5G connectivity, offers a vantage point where operational inefficiencies become opportunities for optimization. It’s a landscape where safety hazards are dramatically reduced, production timelines are streamlined, and operational costs take a downtrend, making the competitive edge sharper for those who venture on this path. 

Autonomous vehicles and equipment powered by 5G can communicate in real-time, reducing downtime and enhancing predictive maintenance. Like a well-planned road trip playlist, these technologies harmonize, creating a rhythm of efficiency and productivity that propels industries forward. 

  • Risk reduction and increased safety 
  • Workers can monitor equipment and processes located in dangerous or hazardous environments remotely using CAVs and ROVs 
  • Reduce the possibility for human error and accidents 
  • Reduce risks of explosions or other catastrophic incidents with early anomaly detection  
  • Operational efficiencies, productivity, & cost savings 
  • Reduce delays and improve material delivery efficiencies with autonomous heavy truck fleets 
  • Use real-time data to shorten delivery lead times 
  • Acceleration of manual mapping procedures in geological assessments 
  • Lower costs and economic growth 
  • Optimized manufacturing processes 
  • Lower costs with lower fuel consumption & vehicle maintenance through optimized routing to reduce wear and tear 
  • Predictive maintenance with AI tracking the real-time conditions and maintenance needs of your fleet 
  • Lower costs with more productive business operations & streamlined work times 
  • CAVs are bringing new jobs to the economy – experts who understand these groundbreaking new vehicles 
  • Environmental Gains 
  • Improve efficiencies which can lead to environmental gains 
  • Lower fuel costs by using automated “vehicle platooning” or when autonomous trucks drive close behind one another to utilize the road better and save time, fuel, and emissions – a savings of approximately 10% 
  • A new estimate says self-driving trucks could cut fuel use from 13 percent to 32 percent compared with standard diesel vehicles (Scientific American) 
  • Optimized public transit & reduced traffic congestion 



While our destination—the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles—might still be a few miles away, the horizon is unmistakably bright. Every mile driven on this road trip brings industries closer to a future where efficiency, sustainability, and safety are not just waypoints along the way, but constants. 

And the implementation of end-to-end network connectivity is not just about keeping up with the times; it's about setting the pace for the future of industry as we know it. The road may twist, and turns may come unexpectedly, but with the right end-to-end connectivity, infrastructure, readiness, and partners like Ceragon in place, the journey toward full automation is well within reach. 

Interested in learning more? 


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