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Autonomous vehicles will generate huge amounts of data, said Intel’s Doug Davis. (image: Intel)

Vehicle connectivity demands teamwork

Automotive suppliers and companies from other fields are jockeying to team up with the right group of partners to provide services for connected vehicles and smart cities. The collaborations cross boundaries to include insurance companies, app providers and public services as well as a range technology suppliers.

Connected vehicles are rapidly moving into the mainstream, putting pressure on companies to figure out what services and features they want to offer. App companies, cellular and satellite providers, insurance companies, data centers and service providers are all struggling to cash in on the connected car boom. Communication companies like Ericsson are attempting to help vehicle owners find the apps and services they need. Ericsson created a center for app and service providers.

“We launched our Connected Vehicle Marketplace this year,” said Claes Herlitz, Head of Ericsson Automotive. “Autos will interact with a number of different industries, companies will need to cooperate with other industries, for example app developers and insurance companies. There will be a new business model, energy and utility companies will attempt to get involved, retailers will attempt to get involved.”

Automakers also detailed the need for multiple partnerships, which are often called an "ecosystem," during the 2017 TU-Automotive Detroit conference. These ecosystems build upon alliances that have been established in recent years.

“We partnered with Google in 2005 for maps, then we needed a revised architecture to render the images, so we partnered with Nvidia,” said Burkhard Huhnke, Senior Vice President, E-Mobility, at Volkswagen of America. “Now, connectivity allows us to connect to your digital life. VW’s CEO has pledged to offer fully connected cars by 2020.”

Public sector must step up

Consumers who spend much of their time connected to the Web are pressing automakers to provide far-ranging amenities. Today’s technology lets service providers offer a broad range of offerings, making it difficult to determine what users might want and how they can earn revenue. For example, insurance companies that use connectivity to track mileage must decide what else they want to do.

“When insurance companies receive an alert, they can dispatch tow trucks and even dispatch emergency services,” said Jonathan Hewett, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Octo Telematics. “The technology is there, it’s up to marketers to decide what services to provide and how to implement them.”

The challenge facing automotive suppliers extends to the public sector. More urban planners are exploring ways to use connectivity to reduce congestion by using vehicle data to adjust stoplights and help drivers quickly find parking, among many other tasks. However, creating the digital infrastructure needed to support various services won’t be cheap, so private companies may be asked to help pay for equipment.

“Public-private partnerships are very important for increasing cities’ role in providing some of the infrastructure,” said Jens Weitzel, Vice President, Business Development Manager at Free2Move. “The whole of mobility’s future will be a mesh of public-private partnerships. Collaboration will become much more important.”

This infrastructure will probably include V2V and V2I (vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure) communications. That is expected to reduce accidents, which cost communities and drivers millions of dollars and copious time. When vehicles communicate in this fashion, security is paramount. Green Hills Software is addressing this security by partnering with Autotalks and Commsignia to address the huge volume of certificates that will be needed to limit communication to authorized transponders.

“The public key enabling infrastructure for vehicle to vehicle/infrastructure communications will be of a size never seen before,” said Robert Redfield, Director Business Development at Green Hills Software. “The largest now in the U.S. handles around 10 million per year. V2V will be about 20 times bigger.”

Satellite-based OTA

Many conference speakers noted that innovative offerings will often come from startups, which can pose challenges for large companies that aren’t used to finding and working with tiny companies. OEMs and Tier 1s will have to devise strategies that let them work with many different partners without spending getting bogged down.

“You need to be able to connect with a number of different suppliers without using up a lot of your bandwidth,” Ericsson’s Herlitz said. “You need to pre-define business models and revenue-sharing models. When you define business models, you’re taking a risk.”

While cellular communications will play a central role in connected services, these links may not be the most effective technology for OEMs to transmit over the air (OTA) updates, monitor vehicles’ diagnostic and other tasks. Satellite provider Inmarsat has partnered with Continental to offer OEMs a global network.

“It’s complex for OEMs to manage multiple networks around the globe, and it’s very expensive,” said Gregory Ewert, President of Inmarsat’s Connected Car group. “Satellites let them do all their OTA updates and other industrial communications with one network, no cellular company offers a global network. Satellites are also designed to work for decades. What happens if a cell provider drops its 3G network?”

Handling all this data brings management services and big data analysis into the fray. Rush-hour traffic may tax the data handling capabilities of infrastructure equipment that’s sending infotainment files to vehicles while collecting traffic and safety information. The amount of data created by vehicles will soar even higher when autonomy becomes real. That will impact processing requirements on vehicles and off.

“Autonomous vehicles will generate 4,000 Gbytes of data per hour,” said Doug Davis, General Manager of Intel’s Automated Driving Group. “By comparison, the average Internet user generates around 1.5 Gbytes per day. Much of the auto’s generated data is analyzed and discarded, but it still takes processing power to manipulate it.”

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