Data: The New Fuel For Autonomous Cars

With cars becoming increasingly connected and autonomous, the automotive sector is at the cusp of a disruptive technology change.

Over the years, cars have evolved from being a status symbol, a style statement to, quite literally, a data center on wheels. Commonly described as a ‘horseless carriage’ during its early years, today cars have transformed the way people move, live, work and play. With cars becoming increasingly connected and autonomous, the automotive sector is at the cusp of a disruptive technology change.

According to industry reports, India’s automotive industry, including component manufacturing, accounts for 7 percent of the country’s GDP, and is expected to reach $51.4 to $282.8 billion by 2026. Globally, the automotive sector is poised for its next cycle of evolution, with trailblazing developments in autonomous cars. This is expected to lead to a huge gear shift in the automotive value chain, from manufacturing to allied services, including IT and data storage. These seismic changes are enhancing the overall driving experience and also making vehicles safer.

The autonomous car

Triggered by evolving intelligent technologies, changing consumer preferences and improving transport infrastructure, digitization and automation are paving the road to the future.

With the advent of 5G technology, which brings real-time processing capabilities, these ‘computers on wheels’ are close to becoming a reality. At present, the industry is focused on improving the Level 2 technologies that enable partially automated driving. Some of the features in this category include automatic braking and adaptive cruise control along with other advanced driver systems. However, we still have a couple of decades to go before we have viable, affordable automated cars on the road. In fact, a recent study pegs that autonomous cars will account for 2-5 percent of new car sales by the 2030s.

However, irrespective of the level of autonomous-driving technology, data is at the heart of connected cars that are changing the way we travel. With new applications built into cars, such as dash cameras, reconfigurable instrument clusters, autonomous computers, there is more data to store and process than ever before. Our estimates predict that a single autonomous car is expected to have up to 1TB of storage by 2022. It can be said without doubt, that the future of connected and autonomous cars is all about data.

Growing complexities: data generation and storage

According to the numbers released by Statista5 earlier this year, the global data sphere is likely to reach 17 Zettabytes in 2025, indicating a dramatic increase in the next 4–5 years. However, autonomous test vehicles are already generating data at a much higher rate of 5 to 20 TB per day, per vehicle under testing. Thus, data storage providers will play the role of a key enabler in the connected car ecosystem.

The introduction of NAND flash storage solutions was a breakthrough moment in the automotive sector, generating new possibilities with its small form factors and big capacities. Especially in the case of a connected car, there are diverse edge storage devices that power different types of data. This is because the requirements of the automotive edge differ across use cases. With changes in data workloads, there is also a need to optimize the data infrastructure. Another factor to consider is that while some of the data is kept for a few seconds, other types of data might need to be retained over a longer period of time. This requires that storage not be an afterthought in designing these systems.

A multitude of diverse edge storage devices exists today for powering different types of data. For example, automotive-grade SD cards allow high reliability and traceability, as well as easy access to data for infotainment and navigation applications. A newer interface in the automotive sector, Universal Flash Storage (UFS) is used in next-generation applications, such as e-cockpits, Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) and AI-enabled autonomous drive systems.

In order to cater to the evolving storage requirements of connected and autonomous vehicles, there have been breakthrough innovations in the data storage space which capture critical car system data, deliver maximum reliability and help in driving top-notch performance and capability.

The road ahead….

In the automotive landscape, the thin line of difference between fact and fiction is fast disappearing. It is hard to imagine the potential capabilities autonomous cars will bring to people. The future of smart transportation rests on the implementation of intelligent technologies and emerging data solutions. These will go on to open new opportunities in the automotive value chain and ensure better and safer driving experiences.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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