Automotive Blog

Information superhighway


In the emerging years of the internet, it was described as the information superhighway. Twenty years later and a connected customer and car network is rapidly evolving, and with them the need for a connected car infrastructure. Now people talk of the internet of things – smart meters at home optimising our energy use, car telematics enabling us to heat the car before we leave home on an icy winter morning, and now smart-watches that connect users to both of these utility enhancing solutions via wearable technology.

And despite the hype, cars are already becoming an open platform for a range of problem solving applications that makes customers lives easier. Mojio is a good example – an aftermarket product that is simply a 3G device that attaches to the OBD (On-board Diagnostics) port, and allows the user to monitor, track and control the car remotely with a smartphone. By doing so an existing unconnected car becomes a connected, networked car, with many of the capabilities of the built-in telematics that are soon to come to all new cars. But more than that, Mojio is an open platform that allows anyone to create other problem solving tools, and the creativity of app developers makes this an interesting area to watch.

Governments and municipal authorities are already being left behind in building this parallel road infrastructure. But given the potential of the connected car, the investments required will undoubtedly be significant. A recent article in The Economist pointed out that the mobile industry spent $1.8 trillion from 2009 to 2013 in upgrading global infrastructure; for example, Amazon web services, the largest cloud computing provider, is adding as much server capacity each and every day as that required only a decade ago - in total by Amazon retail (1).  For example, a speech on March 3rd at the Mobile World Congress, given by Andrus Ansip from the European Commission, (Vice-President for the Digital Single Market), made the point that 5G networks will be required to power the connected ecosystem. At the very least, 5G capabilities will be needed to “guarantee that connected cars will be able to react in less than 1 millisecond and avoid collisions” (2)  and has set aside 700 million euro “to get 5G up and running”.

Unlocking the potential of this new information superhighway will have many impacts on personal mobility, some easier to predict than others. For many urban and transport planners, the car is increasingly being seen as part of a networked system rather than the focus of individual mobility; as Dan Hill, of the think tank Future Cities Catapult, said recently, cars will continue to be cultural objects, but transport developers are thinking of cars not as objects within urban transport flows, but as contributing ‘bricks’ to the functionality of what we want ‘buildings’ to be - so in other words, components within an enhanced mobility network. The dream of many transport modellers and planners is that connected cars will allow a real-time optimisation of traffic, with known starting points and destinations allowing a system wide direction of traffic through the capillaries of the road network so to improve average travel times and reduce the build-up of traffic (3) .

Despite an apparently central position in this new ecosystem, the automotive distribution sector has a challenge ahead in persuading drivers that they should be the natural provider of any of these connected car capabilities and systems. A recent study by the Cologne University of Applied Sciences investigated the types of data that customers would be prepared to have transmitted automatically from the car, and who that data is shared with. Car manufacturers scored badly under all circumstances as partners that customers would be happy to share data with.  Dealers fared better, but it is notable that German customers in the survey would still be happier sharing data with an independent repairer than they would be with a dealer.  To make the most of this emerging information superhighway, customers need to be convinced by service providers they can trust.

We will be debating these challenges and many others next week at our Spring meeting in Chantilly, and members can still book online for the main day and workshops.


1. The Economist. The truly personal computer. 28/02/15.
3.  Seng Dewen; Tang Meixia; Wu Hao; Fang Xujian; Xu Haitao , “Multiple Constrained Dynamic Path Optimization based on Improved Ant Colony Algorithm”, December 2014, International Journal of U- & E-Service, Science & Technology;Dec2014, Vol. 7 Issue 6, p117


Written by Ben Waller

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