Buckle-up for a connected car ride, powered by 5G

Rohit Gupta, vice president and head of manufacturing, logistics, energy & utilities, Europe at Cognizant

It is estimated that there will be a quarter of a billion connected cars on the roads by 2020. Thanks to connectivity, vehicles will now be able to ‘talk’ to each other, the infrastructure surrounding them, and manufacturers. Earlier this year, the European Commission presented its third EC Mobility Package, which sets a goal for all new vehicles to be linked to the internet by 2022.

There is no doubt that connectivity is part of the solution to the challenges brought by increasing urbanisation and its impact on the environment. Connected cars mean real-time information on traffic, road accidents and environmental conditions affecting transport routes, insights that can ultimately help to reduce carbon emissions, and vastly improve congestion and road safety. Moreover, public authorities will have access to fleet data on a large scale. This means cities will be in a better position to keep track of average fuel consumption, helping them achieve their cleaner city goals.

The mobility package focuses on three key pillars for the future of transport: safety, society and competitiveness. Its hope is to make Europe a world leader for fully autonomous safe mobility, leading to new jobs, economic growth, less traffic congestion as well as new mobility solutions for the elderly and physically impaired.

Safer data means safer driving

 The first, and perhaps most pressing issue the mobility package addresses is the need for a fresh approach to road safety. The package takes a holistic view toward the issue of safety, and aims to build in layers of protection for road users: from infrastructure, vehicle design, speed and behaviour. Data, and more specifically 5G, forms the backbone of this approach. Compared to its predecessors -3G and 4G- 5G has a considerably lower lag time, which broadens the range of the types of communications that can lean on the network and creates greater opportunities for manufacturers.

5G will enable vehicles to exchange information – known as Vehicle-to-Vehicle connectivity (V2V) -meaning information can be sent out to drivers in real-time to help them in making more informed decisions, such as faster dynamic route guidance and accident avoidance. Imagine if the car ahead of you could let you know almost instantly when there has been a collision up ahead and that cars are breaking heavily. For example, Ford and Vodafone are testing connected vehicle technology that can automatically warn other drivers of accidents ahead and direct cars to create an ‘emergency corridor’ for emergency vehicles. This would be especially helpful in cities where drivers often find it difficult to know where the emergency siren is coming from.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) offer a vast potential to improve road safety, but it also means that simple systems that we take for granted like traffic lights could be hacked, as each new point of connectivity could open another door for a cybercriminal. Therefore, while the potential benefits could transform our cities, at the other end of the scale it could also leave us in deadlock. To avoid this, manufacturers need to ensure that all points of access are airtight, with privileged access set up where necessary. While privacy concerns will be a tricky issue to navigate across all industries, cybersecurity and data management will be crucial for the development of connected vehicles, and the eventual integration of autonomous cars.

Managing societal change in a connected future

 The EU has rightly stressed that safety is at the top of the agenda in the drive towards connected vehicles, but 5G will also help journeys become more fun and enjoyable. Data is already playing a huge role in shaping the in-car and out of car experiences. From car sharing to mobility for the elderly, connected vehicles will have a significant socio-economic impact. While we are still yet to assess the long-term effects of increased connectivity and driverless mobility on the transport system, businesses and governments need to carefully consider these impacts.

In the near future, data will allow new business models and revenue streams to emerge – creating a new economy for organisations. Data has an enormous potential to enable car manufacturers to create new, personalised products and services and transform existing business models. We are already seeing insurance providers taking advantage of data to provide personalised insurance plans based on each person’s driving style – taking into account different factors such as how often someone drives.

On the other hand, with so much data set to influence drivers’ decisions and habits, traditional driver insurance may become redundant – with new players already establishing themselves in the market, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and traditional insurers need to think of new ways they can compete with more flexible, attractive business models.

 There is also a significant opportunity here for manufacturers to make the most of this connectivity to maintain an open line of communication with consumers, far beyond the traditional point of sale. Since April this year, all cars in the EU require a SIM card connected to the central processing unit (CPU), called eCall, that automatically calls emergency services in the event of a road accident.

For instance, Toyota has recently announced that it is investing $500 million in Uber for developing self-driving technologies as part of Toyota’s wider ambition to become known as a ‘mobility company’.

However, it is important to note that technology alone cannot solve the issues surrounding congestion, pollution and road safety. Connectivity is one part of a long transition process towards embedding future technologies in our transport system. The EU Mobility Package may provide direction, but in the absence of existing models to learn from, it is up to government bodies, manufacturers and service providers to convert these recommendations into the right implementation plan. There is no doubt that the government needs to work collaboratively with manufacturers and traffic management organisations to make the most of the opportunities. Manufacturers also need to work hard to protect themselves from new competitors such as Google and Amazon- to do this, connected services must all work towards improving the customer experience, because simply put, a bad connection is almost as bad as no connection at all.

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