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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.

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