Will Data Save our Lives?

Saket Saurabh
Saket Saurabh

automotive data-at-CES

The automotive industry is the buzzing topic at CES 2017. That’s no surprise given the pace of innovation in vehicle connectivity and autonomy. But beyond the cool concept cars and live demos, CES discussed questions about safety, regulation, social impact, smart cities, and how these new vehicles will change life and jobs as we know it. New vehicle technology and the automotive data that comes along with it has the opportunity to transform how we live, and will save lives while doing it. But is the automotive industry ready for this challenge?

At Nexla, we believe automotive data will fuel these transformations and we were particularly keen to understand how different players in the industry are thinking about their present and future data challenges. We listened and spoke with experts coming from multiple perspectives, including OEMs like Honda, Land Rover, Audi, and Volvo; Tier 1 suppliers like Harman, consultants, universities and even policy experts including the venerable Ralph Nader (who doesn’t believe autonomous vehicles will be possible in the next 30-40 years, given the industry’s myriad manufacturing safety issues).

Top Three Takeaways of Automotive Data from CES 

  1. Connected autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles will generate a huge amount of data. Today’s data efforts are primarily focused on HD maps and the artificial intelligence that will enable autonomous capabilities. In addition, a huge amount of trip and safety data such as speed, cornering, braking, acceleration, visibility, road conditions, object detection, collision avoidance will also generated in real-time. No one is quite sure in what different ways this data could be used. For example, will cars act as a moving micro-weather stations, sending real-time temperature, humidity and rain data to weather companies?
  2. Automotive data has multiple stakeholders: OEMs, Tier1 suppliers, regulators, insurance providers, consumers, smart cities and more. Each entity will likely need access to different slices of data for different objectives. For example:
    • Insurance companies need user level data to create behavior based and usage based insurance.
    • Regulators want to make sure that safety-critical information is shared among vehicles
    • Consumers want to make sure their privacy concerns and benefits are adequately balanced.
    • Real-time vehicle-to-vehicle communication holds huge promise in improving safety
    • Smart Cities need access to vehicle data for better traffic and safety control and planning
  3. As data crosses various organizational boundaries, both security and compliance questions come to the forefront. How, for example, will OEMs share data with regulators and each other while maintaining corporate and consumer privacy? Today, no one knows. Companies are first focused on the technology challenges of AI, image recognition, HD maps, collision avoidance, and navigation. Industry groups like the GENIVI Alliance which creates standards for vehicle connectivity has started to work on some aspects of these issues with initiatives such as RVI (Remote Vehicle Interaction). However, the broader data challenges will become critical in a few years as autonomy increases and connectedness becomes the norm.

It is fascinating to imagine the changes that will come about in the coming decade as we get closer to self-driving cars. The impact goes beyond just increases to productivity and reduced stress levels on our Jetsons-like autonomous highways. Imagine a world with hundreds of traffic deaths a year— instead of tens of thousands. The opportunity to make a real difference in millions of lives is real, but it will take many stakeholders working together to make it happen. In some ways we’ve seen this movie before: the explosion of mobile pushed the need for big-data across many industries. The automotive evolution will take us all into a new era of scale and complexity of big data. The Nexla team is most excited about solving the resulting challenges in managing that data, and realizing these life-changing opportunities.