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Overcoming the barriers to self-driving

Overcoming the barriers to self-driving
(Image credit: Jamesteohart / Shutterstock)

It’s a turbulent time for the UK mobility industry, and not just because of current economic and political uncertainty. An increasing consumer thirst for digital experiences and stricter sustainability regulations have contributed to vehicle manufacturers experiencing something of a market ‘cool off’ as consumers put the brakes on new purchases.

While vehicle manufacturers may be stuck in the slow lane now, vast opportunity lays ahead. According to Frost & Sullivan, the size of the automotive industry is growing at an incredible rate due to the downstream segment – mobility services, in-vehicle services and driving services - playing an ever more important role. By 2030, Frost & Sullivan predict that 90 million autonomous vehicles will be on the road and that mobility-as-a-service will be worth $2 trillion in revenue. 

About the author

David Lander, Senior Vice President, Dell Technologies.

Only last month it was announced that the London boroughs of Croydon and Bromley are among the first to trial driverless cars - part of a program designed to prove that this technology can operate safely on UK’s cramped roads. Such progression within the industry and implied desire to have autonomous vehicles on our roads is encouraging. But, according to a new report by study by Frost & Sullivan commissioned by Dell Technologies, the reality is that while executives understand that the future is in embracing connected mobility, many are still unsure of how to move forward to a profitable, fully autonomous, digital future.

Volumes of data to rival Facebook and AWS

For vehicle manufacturers, all forms of connected mobility (consumer, commercial or industrial) will need to be intelligent and self-driving, not only along designated smart routes but through smart cities across the world. This will offer new value creation models based on innovative products and services. The greatest opportunity, however, will be found in harnessing the enormous volume and variety of data that will be generated throughout the lifecycle of each vehicle.

To put this into context: today the average automotive vehicle generates anything from 15 to 100 data points, according to Frost & Sullivan. These data points can be used by OEMs to develop around 40 to 50 consumer and business use cases including fleet management, insurance offerings, in-car entertainment, urban planning, and R&D optimisation. Of these use cases, 10-15% can be monetised now to drive new revenue streams and offset slowdown.

By 2030, Frost & Sullivan believe that the entire automotive industry will generate one zettabyte (ZB) of data overall – a data volume to rival or even exceed that of Facebook and possibly AWS today. This means that each automotive vehicle will likely generate 10 terabytes (TB) of data per day – the equivalent to 520 million WhatsApp messages. When managed and utilised effectively, this explosion of data represents a powerful tool for vehicle manufacturers to inform and drive new revenues, while also creating competitive differentiation and business diversification. 

Yet, senior executives are feeling uneasy about the anticipated volume of data. In July 2019, Frost & Sullivan interviewed 17 executives across the world (including CIOs, CTOs, and Heads of Connected and Autonomous) who lead the business, product, and technology transformation initiatives for transport vehicle makers, mobility providers, and Tier 1 suppliers. While these leaders expressed an eagerness to drive their companies forward by harnessing data, they revealed a lack of consensus and high degree of caution over next steps required to prepare them to become data centric.

To capitalise on the vast data opportunity, vehicle manufacturers must master their data strategies. This requires OEMs to move from data ingest – the collection, online storage and categorisation of data generated by vehicles – to a next-generation model where they can support, capture, catalogue, move, store, secure, and index massive volumes of data (structured and unstructured) from mobile sources, to cloud services and/or edge-based resources. Only then can vehicle manufacturers leverage data for connected and autonomous fleet operations, and for future monetisation.

The connected and autonomous future begins with data management: specifically with an integrated software-defined and agile infrastructure management capable of accelerating data volumes. For vehicle manufacturers, this is an entirely new paradigm to work within and, as such, several barriers also lay ahead that must be overcome.

Barriers to autonomous success

1. To meet rapidly changing consumer and customer demands, vehicle maker and mobility firms must become more agile, reducing time-to-market and decreasing costs. Data from vehicle usage and driving patterns should enable vehicle makers to rectify any future faults by providing on-time OTA (over-the-air) updates, as well as feed into design and development of next-generation vehicles.

2. Scalable, flexible cloud deployment will be the foundation for the future of the transport and mobility industry. A host of new and yet-to-be-created cloud-native applications will be developed to leverage the model’s accessibility and scalability. Data can be stored cost-effectively in the public cloud and exposed to next-generation AI and ML functionality.

3. AI and ML are powerful capabilities that should be embedded into the IT fabric of the organisation. To optimise the use of data for future services, transport manufacturers and mobility providers must ensure that all data (regardless of format, source, or age) remains accessible and can be readily exposed to AI/ML functionality across various departments within the organisation.

4. Underlying many of the challenges is the lack of in-house experience and expertise in essential new technologies, including cloud strategy, AI/ML, and data science. Resource-constrained IT leaders continue to have a limited budget to hire and attract skilled talent available in the market, despite knowing the competencies and skills required for their team. As a result, firms are actively exploring partnerships with the technology industry.

Realising the connected future

The brave new world of autonomous driving is fast approaching. To truly succeed in the years to come, vehicle manufacturers will need to do more than build new and beautifully designed vehicles and services for their customers - they will need a long-term vision, and a clear roadmap.