The future of mobility: here is how software is changing automotive technology
A decade ago, when people spoke about connected vehicles, they thought it was just another fad. And today, we can see connected vehicles already plying on the roads with cars having algorithms that can take real-time decisions to make driving safer.
Increasing urbanisation and the growth of mega cities is set to change the way people move around very soon. Technological innovations such as autonomy, electrification, connectivity, and sharing are forcing the auto industry to rethink the way people commute.
“The software component in cars is going to be a trillion-dollar opportunity in the next decade. Each car will have a supercomputer talking to the infrastructure and other cars on the road,” says Elmar Degenhart, CEO of Continental AG.
When this happens, the future of mobility is going to be viewed very differently. If India can leapfrog these technologies, there can certainly be a revolution in mobility. However, one thing is certain, all automotive technology - at least the software component - will be built in India for the world. According to data from Continental the software part will be a $1 trillion opportunity by 2030. Currently, it stands slightly over $250 billion.
Here are some of the technologies that will be part of the future of mobility across the world.
For large cities that are increasingly suffocating due to traffic congestion, robo-taxis offer an effective way of tackling the challenges of urban mobility.
Robo-taxis were introduced to help reduce traffic jams, accidents, air pollution, and to address the issue of parking spaces in cities.
According to a study by consulting firm Roland Berger, around one quarter of transportation tasks could be carried out by driverless vehicles by 2030.
After all, it is much smarter to operate less driverless vehicles on a near-continuous basis than to have countless private cars, which often sit in a parking space for long hours.
In addition, on campuses, amusement parks, and shopping malls, autonomous vehicles such as the “CUbE”, developed by German automaker Continental, could be used to reduce walking distances and to transport people.
To further advance the development of driverless mobility, Continental acquired a minority stake in the French company EasyMile SAS, a leading producer of driverless technologies and intelligent mobility solutions, in 2017. Continental is currently working on such mobility systems in the USA and Japan.
Similarly, Bosch and Daimler, which have a partnership to bring out autonomous vehicles in the next three years, have just been given a go-ahead by German authorities to test a fully autonomous parking valet technology. Both the companies are also working on robo-taxis.
Early this year, serial tech entrepreneur and Founder of Tesla Elon Musk also outlined his plans of launching robo-taxis next year. If Musk is to be believed, his company will be putting at least a million self-driving robo-taxis on the road in some parts of the US by 2020.
Ethereum-based blockchain tokens are very popular with those who use crypto to trade items. The primary use case for blockchain is transparency, consensus, and a system of records. Above all, this works on decentralisation.
Now, companies such as Continental, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Crossroad.io have built a blockchain for data sharing with car companies.
So, here’s how it works. If you are driving through a new city, and don’t have required information of a particular route, you can make use of blockchain technology to connect to the cloud service of car companies operating in the area. These companies will then pull data from their customers driving on the particular route, and provide you with the details.
Individuals or drivers, who are fine with sharing their data, will provide details such as traffic jams and location landmarks. The data will be shared with a company like Continental, which will beam the data back to the person who has requested for it.
The payment made for subscribing that data goes in the form of rewards tokens to the drivers who provide the data. The drivers can then redeem these tokens on a blockchain exchange for normal or fiat currency.
“Sharing of vehicle data across vendors can solve some of the toughest traffic problems and improve driver experience by leveraging the power of swarm intelligence,” says Phil Davis, President, Hybrid IT, Chief Sales Officer, HPE.
“Together with Continental, we provide the key to unlock the value of this data treasure by not taking control of the data by ourselves, but by giving control to the drivers and car manufacturers,” he adds.
Apart from this, Bosch is working with an energy supplier, EnBW, on a prototype that uses blockchain technology to improve the electric car recharging process. The idea is to streamline and tailor the entire process to customers’ needs, so they can select, reserve, and pay for recharging services as they see fit.
For example, the operator can use the software to offer customers transparent pricing models, with options varying in real time, and according to the availability of charging stations.
The entire transaction – reservation and payment – will be a fully automated blockchain operation. This service can factor other customer preferences into the equation. For example, a customer who has kids and likes coffee could opt for a charging station with a playground and cafés nearby. Initial trials with this new system are underway.
A car that pays its own parking fees
To make parking less of a chore, Bosch and Siemens are jointly developing a second application, a smart parking-management system, based on blockchain. By making use of distributed ledger technology (DLT), cars will be able to communicate directly with parking facilities in their vicinity and negotiate the best terms.
As soon as the car reaches the entrance of a parking garage, it will identify itself at the entry barrier, which will then be raised without the driver having to remove a ticket from the dispenser. The driver will also be able to leave the parking garage without further ado, since the vehicle will have already communicated with the exit barrier and settled the parking fee in a virtual transaction.
At present, the prototype has been installed at Bosch’s Renningen research campus and at the Siemens campus in Munich.
Distributed structures means data is decentralised. Rather than a few platform providers storing data in their data centers, here it is spread across numerous servers.
“To build trust in digital ecosystems, we need open platforms in which users have the power to decide for themselves,” says Volkmar Denner, CEO of Bosch.
“We are building trust in internet platforms with these distributed structures. They enable many players to participate,” says Michael Bolle, board of management member and CDO/CTO, Bosch.
Distributed platforms operated by an ecosystem encompassing numerous equal partners are also better protected against external attacks.
LED lights– Illumination to communication
While many people regard autonomous vehicles and electric mobility as the future of automotive industry, the automotive lighting market is also fast catching up.
For instance, Continental is exploring the future of modern lighting systems with its new joint venture - Osram Continental GmbH. While Osram supplies state-of-the-art lighting technology, Continental takes care of the electronics and software
“We have created a new company that will rethink the future of automotive lighting,” says Dirk Linzmeier, CEO of Osram Continental.
The first product to emerge from the development pipeline includes the Smartrix modules, which enable glare-free high beam light and dynamic low beam light, and laser headlights with a reach of 600 meters.
Another product is a system that can project warning messages while driving on the road. For example, if there is an alert telling the driver about an uncovered drain on the road, people can avoid driving through the drain, and also avert any accident.
Commenting about the future of mobility, Elmar says: “The future is already moving from electric vehicle technology to fuel cells, and we are looking at the impact of those technologies by 2030.”
A fuel cell uses chemical reactions to produce energy rather than using metals like lithium or lead that enable current battery technologies.
At least what is real is the software component that enables the bridge between all these technologies, which is a trillion-dollar opportunity according to all automobile companies.
(Edited By Megha Reddy)