We hear more about cars becoming living rooms, with entertainment, work and socializing replacing the need to drive. But less is said about the connectivity and IT orchestration required to support autonomous mobility. Automakers, component providers and government entities are working feverishly behind the scenes on the data connections that deliver the required speed, scale, reliability and safety.
IHS Markit forecasts global sales of autonomous cars to be 33 million in 2040 – accounting for 26 percent of new car sales. Approximately 51,000 units are forecast to be sold in 2021, the first year personally owned autonomous cars will be available to individual buyers. As autonomy takes off, the need to collect data from the car, infrastructure and environment – and routinely exchange it – is driving new services, partnerships and technological innovation.
4,000 GBs of data a day, per car
The typical autonomous vehicle (AV) will generate 4,000 gigabytes of data per day, according to Intel. That’s more than 1,300 high-definition movie downloads in 24 hours.
Automotive manufacturers and the telecom carriers that’ll provide the necessary enablers are feeling the heat, and making moves to make sure they won’t be left behind. They’re investing heavily to support the convergence and growth of cloud and communications at the network edge needed for low latency communications with vehicles.
Anticipating a 1,000 percent increase in data volume, Ford Motor Company is building a $200 million data center to accommodate demand. And telecom carriers are investing $5 billion in 5G high-speed wireless infrastructure to enable autonomous vehicles, even before the 5G standard is approved. Why? Current lag times are unacceptable in a Level 5 autonomous world where there’s zero margin for error.
Massive computing power that delivers behavioral insights
From outside the vehicle, traffic signals let cars know when to stop and go, road sensors keep them in their lanes and inputs reveal open parking spots. Real-time updates to map data, crowd-sourced traffic information and accurate weather reports are vital. New connectivity that gleans behavioral insights makes autonomous mobility more trustworthy, and answers important questions like: How do people (or deer or ducks for that matter) share that particular road with cars? How often do cars (with or without drivers) switch lanes on a certain stretch of highway? And how do we teach the applications to apply what’s been learned?
Within a single car, there is now a small-scale data center complete with networking.
These data centers have orders of magnitude more computing power than the guidance computer that guided the Apollo mission to the moon. These networks include more than 3,000 cameras, radar, lidar and antennas. They also require software for GPS, payment, personal and communications to capture, process and communicate the real-time information needed for autonomous mobility to work.
Autonomous vehicles must handle the volume of processing and machine learning to get from point A to point B. The next generation of autonomy, highly autonomous cars with SAE Level 4 autonomy, must be 100 percent reliable with virtually no human intervention.
Inside and out, the data ecosystem requires an unprecedented range of computing, storage and network components: From onboard computers to wireless connectivity to towers, other cars and infrastructure. From edge compute platforms performing time-sensitive data digestion to cloud compute platforms doing the analytical heavy lifting.
Insights make road management safer
V2X (Vehicle-to-Everything) technology will play a big role in sharing data from inside the car. V2X allows vehicles to communicate not just with other vehicles (V2V), or with the infrastructure (V2I), but with any smart device using short-range wireless signals.V2X technology uses short-range wireless signals to communicate with compatible systems. It is also resistant to interference (including weather), making autonomous mobility safer, road management better and instilling trust among consumers.
Enabling data computing gets you to market faster
Carmakers, component manufacturers and software providers are working with data computing enablers that let them innovate quickly and more cost effectively. Henry Bzeih, CTO and SVP of Automotive at Flex, recommends working with a systems provider that can see the full scope of the challenge with autonomous mobility – from design to IoT connectivity and from data centers that meet demand to manufacturing. Finding a partner that helps you move from a sketch on a piece of paper to en masse production is key to moving mobile initiatives forward, fast.
The road to the proliferation of autonomous mobility has put data proficiency and analytics on par in importance with electrical engineering, hardware and design in the automotive industry. Enabling the mobile living room of the not-so-distant future is now center stage.