Learning to drive has long been a rite of passage, but this may become a thing of the past as driverless cars come to the highways and byways near us.

Driverless car tests will begin on the UK’s motorways as soon as 2019. From there the automotive and tech industries have plans to make things move quickly. By 2021, Auto Express predicts that automated driving will be available on pre-defined sections of UK motorways, where cars will be able to take complete control, allowing drivers to focus on other activities instead. And that’s not all, as fully automated driving everywhere is expected to hit the streets only four years later, in 2025.

Of course, all of this depends on robust wireless connectivity, which will enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. As our recent network benchmarking test of the UK’s motorways found, we still have a way to go until that level of connectivity is available.

While mobile networks in the UK have greatly improved when it comes to nationwide 4G availability, LTE coverage is variable across networks and not yet ubiquitous on UK motorways. This is especially disappointing for British consumers, as we recently found that drivers see the future of in-car connectivity to be built around their smartphones.

Even before driverless vehicles hit the roads, consumers want more in-car connectivity. For example, in our recent UK nationwide survey 41% of the consumers want in-car WiFi to connect tablets, phones and other smart devices. This is not all, as British consumers expect connected cars to improve road safety and convenience by communicating critical information over mobile networks with other cars (31%), roadside infrastructure (28%) and dealerships (27%).

Industry analyst firm Gartner predicts that connected car production is increasing with force, with the production of new vehicles with data connectivity either through a built-in communications module or by a tether to a mobile device forecast to reach 61 million worldwide in 2020 (an increase of 40 million from 2017). As the average age of a car on UK roads is 7.7 years old come 2025 the average British driver will most likely own a car with an internet connection.

Current wireless technology is already supporting connected vehicles. In particular, today’s 4G networks are serving as a conduit to enable various features associated with connected vehicles. However, much more needs to be done to power fully autonomous vehicles.

Mobile operators are key to unlocking connected and autonomous vehicles and all they have to offer. By provisioning networks with the promised levels of low latency and gigabit throughputs that 5G networks should offer, they will be able to fuel the connectivity needs for the vehicles of the future.