A peek under the hood of the connected car (Reader Forum)
Ovum recently predicted that the global connected car market will grow from 59 million vehicles in 2016 to more than 308 million vehicles by 2022. As we sit halfway between these dates, more is changing than simply the vehicles on the road. Rather, the systems, platforms and networks that transform these machines into software-based hubs of information and entertainment, are similarly growing in numbers and evolving at a rapid pace.
Beyond new, high-tech rides on the roadways, the increase Ovum predicts is – and will – continue to be reflected in the growth of the mobile services that connect these vehicles. Along with improving powertrain performance and investments in electrification, automakers have turned their focus toward vehicle connectivity to deliver a new generation of so-called Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) services. With connected telematics, safety, navigation and infotainment services built into new models, these features now have a major impact on buyers and the total auto market alike.
Alongside transmissions and pistons, there are now eSIMs and IoT sensors under the hood. Whether you are ready to hit the road or are just along for the ride as this digital transformation gathers pace, here is what you’ll find on the road.
Paving the way for V2X – Vehicle-to-Everything
Embedded SIM technology (eSIM) is a significant step forward for the automotive industry as it opens the door to newfound flexibility. Moving beyond telematics and onboard navigation, manufacturers can increasingly leverage connectivity for software over-the-air updates to the vehicles. Tesla has demonstrated the impact of instantaneous updates, recently adjusting battery settings for better safety, and earlier adding automatic steering over the air, virtually overnight. eSIM technology is also great news for dealerships, insurers, retailers and others in the connected car ecosystem, as they can now more easily bring new, value-added services that rely on constant, reliable, secure connectivity to drivers’ fingertips.
While today’s vehicles rely on 4G, the much-hyped 5G standard carries the promise of greater reliability and speed. However, those benefits only extend as far as 5G network reach. Even with broad 5G coverage, moving cars will need to seamlessly connect to and change between different networks while driving across distances and borders. Because manufacturers can change an eSIM’s profile and configure car connectivity remotely, operator ‘lock in’ is largely eliminated and the car can connect to any mobile network, in any country, depending on where it is sold. Flexible, controlled, borderless and trans-network connectivity will be vital to the future of connected cars, and will require cooperation and partnership from players across a vast number of industries, as well as policy makers and industry bodies and even potential competitors. Just like driving per the rules of the road, all players must follow standardized procedures to stay in sync with others and keep everyone safe. Just like cautious drivers abide speed limits and carefully watch for pedestrians, players must utilize common standards and disparate systems must integrate seamlessly to ensure the safety of all.
Vehicle-to-Everything (and anything)
Fueled by new technologies like eSIMs and 5G, V2X solutions are gaining traction because of new features like automated toll road operations, hazard warning, collision avoidance or congestion avoidance systems – as well as in-car entertainment and infotainment.
The most intriguing area of V2X may be autonomous driving (levels four and above). While traditional vehicles rely on an alert driver to monitor surrounding traffic and sense changes, in autonomous vehicles the car itself will take over and ‘see’ the world around it. This means an autonomous vehicle’s ability to safely turn a corner will depend on its ability to send and receive data from nearby sensors to determine the proper angle, and its capabilities for sensing impediments and other nearby connected vehicles to avoid collision.
Clearly, V2X will have a major impact in the driver’s seat, but passengers are in for a change as well. In the future, we’ll not only view a vehicle as a mode of transportation, but also as a mode of entertainment. While this may seem like a subtle shift, the concept extends far beyond drivetime radio or onboard video. As autonomous cars shuttle passengers through their morning commutes or on cross-country trips, passengers—no longer tasked with driving or even navigating—will be a captive audience, complete with a steady in-car 5G connection. This newfound free time for media consumption will mean a ‘battle for the dashboard’ as automotive, telecoms, advertising and content/streaming businesses seek to cash in.
The road ahead
With connected cars shifting from science fiction to modern reality and autonomous cars coming into view, the automotive industry provides one of the best, yet most challenging examples of the potential of a global wireless network. The ability for a vehicle to connect with the outside world will undoubtedly enhance the driver and passenger experience and will create new service opportunities along the way.
Automotive manufacturers, insurance companies and telematics and telecommunications providers all have a vested interest in making connected cars the new normal and paving the way to autonomous driving. Vehicles that can optimize aspects of their own operation and maintenance, provide next generation infotainment services, boost safety and security and deliver additional value for their owners are a true win-win, but none of this can happen without the proper infrastructure for connectivity.