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Data and the Connected Vehicle: The Holy Grail?

Posted: Friday, October 8, 2021

Imagine all vehicles on the road — both old and new — linked through a high-speed, low-latency connection to a smart, powerful infrastructure. This vision of the future is radically changing the way we think about infrastructure and the role it plays in the collection, analysis and delivery of data to and from the vehicle.

During the recent 2021 WCX Digital Summit, industry thought leaders came together to explore this topic during the session “Is Data and the Connected Vehicle the Holy Grail or a Panacea?” Here are some of the highlights.

  1. Data can help drive the eventual shift to Level 5 autonomous vehicles. 
    One of the panelists was Çetin Meriçli, Founder and CEO of Locomation — creator of the world’s first technology platform to offer human-guided autonomous truck convoying. He explained how a phased approach is allowing his company to collect information to help pave the way forward: “We believe full autonomy will come in multiple phases, instead of shooting for Level 5 in one shot. The first two phases will involve human guidance. In a human-guided convoy of two or multiple trucks, the human driver in the lead truck can guide the way and act as the cognitive filter. We believe we will be collecting vast amounts of relevant, real-world data. You need a lot of exposure in the real world. We believe human-guided convoys will give us that exposure and actually propel us towards full autonomy in a much faster, profitable, safer and beneficial way.”
  2. Infrastructure is seen as a major roadblock to achieving fully connected driving … but there’s a way forward.
    Many city, county and state DOTs aren’t using the infrastructure they already have — and claim they don’t have money to deploy a new digital infrastructure. Faisal Saleem, ITS Branch Manager at Maricopa County Department of Transportation, countered that argument by stating: “To build a road, it can cost somewhere from $2 million to $6 million a mile. Just for a comparison, if you look at putting up fiber, you’re just talking $18,000 a mile (this is an average cost). And if you’re putting up a wireless infrastructure, it is still probably less. So, if you look at the granular cost elements, the cost is not that high. I think what is lacking is process.”  

    Saleem explained that public agencies should embrace a startup mentality and conduct small-scale pilot projects to demonstrate the value and benefits of new technologies. “We have been very successful in doing that. We have launched some major technology projects and took a different approach from a typical DOT build process for the roads,” he said.
  3. Determining who owns vehicle data is a thorny issue.
    Who actually owns the data streaming out of connected vehicles and who gets to benefit from it? According to panelist Hank Skorny, President of Aptiv Connected Services, the answer is not straightforward: “I think that is going to be one of the things that has to be solved before data is going to reach its full potential. Our view is that ultimately the owner of the vehicle has to own the data, and grant rights and permissions over the data. One of the things that is going to be necessary for that to happen is more standardization around the data formats that are involved.”  
  4. Vehicle architectures must evolve in order to support broader connectivity. 
    “I think you’re going to see an evolution to smart vehicle architectures, where you’ll have a standard networking infrastructure and centralized domain controllers for individual domains on the vehicle, things from powertrain to active safety and autonomy,” Skorny explained. “Today, these are very disparate systems. We’re at the point now where they could be consolidated into more powerful units that allow for this elegant edge processing or necessary cloud processing, so that you have a true, edge-to-cloud continuum of compute on a single vehicle network. We’re already seeing this happen now with next-generation vehicle architecture. You’re going from hundreds of computers down to a smaller number of very powerful ones connected on a high-speed network.”
  5. Data-sharing across auto manufacturers is key to safe, connected vehicles and roadways. 
    “Being able to look at performance across disparate systems will be critical to making them better,” Skorny said. “If the different vehicle systems don’t interact, you’ll never be able to achieve an efficient, fully autonomous world. They have to be able to interact, interconnect, act on each other’s sensors and communicate with one another. It’s going to be interesting to see how the industry moves forward with standards to be able to do that.”

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