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Autonomous Cars: connectivity will fuel the future of the auto industry

Autonomous driving expected to lead the way for automotive manufacturers.

By Hannah Williams

Autonomous vehicles and connected cars will have profound implications for drivers and car manufacturers, with automotive technology companies currently investing billions to bring self-driving vehicles to our roads as quickly and safely as possible.

For drivers, it’s reasonably easy to imagine the future of the driving experience, with self-driving vehicles such as those from Google’s Self-Driving Project firmly established in mainstream consciousness. But what does this fundamental shift in the use of connected machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies in our cars and on our roads mean for the long-term future of the automotive industry?

Google self-driving car features

Google’s self-driving car features

The industry faces an immense technological challenge. With a huge increase in the amount of traffic, navigation, safety and performance data needing to be processed by both manufacturer and the car, what does the underlying networking infrastructure look like?

Consider, for example, that the latest driverless car prototypes being tested out by technology and car companies such as Google, Apple, Uber, Volvo, Ford and others are 100 per cent reliable on fast, secure mobile data networks. To work effectively and safely, these cars have to produce up to two gigabytes of data per second to constantly receive, send and process data on road conditions, mapping, vehicle performance and traffic via the latest cameras and other sensor technologies such as Radar and Lidar, the laser-sensing system used in Google’s self-driving cars.

Then multiply this amount of data required by the many millions of connected vehicles soon to be on our roads, with Gartner predicting that there will be 250 million cars on our roads connected by 2020. Which means that one in every five cars worldwide will very soon have a digital imprint.

To put this imminent and rapid growth in automotive data use into an understandable context, a recent IDC study shows that, by 2020, the global annual data volume will have reached 44 zettabytes (or 44 billion terabytes), a considerable leap from the current seven zettabytes, with much of this growth coming from connected cars and new in-car digital services and apps.

A safe and secure network for 250 million connected cars

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Driverless cars are no longer the sole preserve of sci-fi novels and movies, but it is the growth of the huge market for certain driverless features such as automated parking and traffic jam assistance that is really set to boost the industry over the next 15 years.

Recent predictions from Lux Research, for example, claim the market for advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) will be worth $102 billion (£78.8 billion) by 2030, as auto manufacturers and technologists develop and adopt rigorously-tested connected cameras, sensors, in-car apps and safety equipment.

Additionally, our cars’ operating systems will soon work in a similar way to our smartphones, with Tesla, one of the most innovative automotive companies on the planet, recently upgrading around 70,000 of its cars, using cellular networks to send vital safety software updates directly to each vehicle. Manufacturers will not only be selling you a car, they will be selling you an entire digitally connected driving system, including these types of regular operating system updates.

Clearly there is a huge opportunity here, both for the traditional automotive industry and for technology companies and newer entrants to the market such as Uber, Google and Apple.

connected carsIn order to ensure our cars are safely and securely networked, it is vital that the automotive industry and forward-thinking governments (planning connected road networks and smart cities) invest in fast, scalable and secure networks that can cope with transmitting and processing this huge amount of data seamlessly and in real-time.

Car manufacturers are, by necessity, becoming data and networking technology specialists, as the automotive industry learns how to manage and extract the best value from billions of new connection points, both within vehicles and across smart cities and connected national road networks.

A properly connected car industry will also depend upon the mass sharing of in-car and on-road data, which will see a flourishing of partnerships between major, established manufacturers with newer technology companies and start-ups. For example, the latest news that Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have all signed a joint agreement to provide data to HERE – a digital mapping and data company they co-own that connects and shares real-time data between vehicles.

HERE is a superb example of where the auto industry is headed. Embracing the New IP, promoting open, efficient, flexible and agile networking and connectivity and working with worldwide networking partners who can provide them with fast and reliable OpenStack-based cloud solutions with 24-7, always-on high-level support are all absolute basic necessities in order for car manufacturers to deliver the vital data needed by connected and autonomous cars.


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