Ans. I am a lifelong professional marketer with 25 years of experience working for large communications, publishing, and technology companies like J. Walter Thompson, International Data Group (IDG), IBM, and Microsoft to name a few. I joined Airbiquity in 2013 to experience working in a mid-size high-growth technology company focused on connected car software and cloud service delivery. At the time, connected car was building momentum, and projected to post exponential growth in the years ahead. The four years I have been at Airbiquity have gone by in a flash, and the connected car market has lived up to the projections and become even more fast-paced and exciting to work in than I could have imagined.
How close is the automotive industry to achieving full autonomy?
Ans. We do not believe fully autonomous driving, defined as SAE 4 and 5, will be truly mainstream until at least 2030. Before then, we will see significant increases in public testing and closely managed rollouts of autonomous vehicles in selective applications starting in late 2018, followed by a slow but steady increase in global autonomous vehicle sales approaching one million units annually by 2026. For comparison, according to Automotive World, global light vehicle demand reached 91 million units annually in 2016, so you can see there is a long way to go until the majority of vehicles operating on streets and highways will be doing so autonomously.
Ans. The most common connected car use cases are safety and security (emergency response, remote start and cabin conditioning, roadside assistance, etc.), infotainment (smartphone integration, mobile apps, and navigation), electric vehicle (electric and hybrid drivetrains), and commercial vehicle fleet management. Automaker connected car program deployments and related features are constantly evolving as new technology becomes available and real-world consumer feedback and utilization information is obtained. We are also going to see a greater percentage of automaker vehicle fleets receiving connected car features as the technology matures and costs come down.
What are the key benefits of connected car technology?
Ans. Connected cars provide consumers with exactly what it states – connectivity – to familiar and useful content and services for drivers and passengers. The features range from driver features like roadside assistance and hands-free calling, to infotainment features like streaming music and video services. Connected cars bring the comfort and convenience of today’s high-tech software into the vehicle. A major benefit of over-the-air (OTA) technology, is the ability to remotely receive software updates and transmit diagnostic and operational data from on-board systems and components. Thus, consumers will be able to receive critical vehicle software updates automatically instead of scheduling appointments at a local dealership, thus removing this recurring time and expense hassle for vehicle owners. By leveraging vehicle connectivity with OTA solutions, automakers can also significantly reduce recall expenses, improve cybersecurity response times, increase product quality and operational efficiencies, and deliver vehicle performance and feature enhancements after vehicle purchase.
What are the main barriers when it comes to the adoption of such technologies?
Ans. One of the biggest adoption barriers relates to the business model, as automakers are still figuring out how to secure recurring revenue from connected vehicle programs. Until now, these programs have brought additional cost to the vehicle bill of material (BOM), but with the promise of competitive differentiation and improved customer product engagement, satisfaction, and brand loyalty. So far, we have seen lower than expected return on investment (ROI) due to low rates of consumer adoption and on-going use. This is expected to change with the upcoming introduction of more relevant and timely driving centric consumer services that are powered by vehicle data and analytics. Driving centric services, combined with the ability for automakers to update vehicle software remotely, and leverage data and analytics for backend operational efficiencies, will finally deliver the positive ROI the industry has been seeking and amortize prior program investments.
One of the key concerns when it comes to connected cars is cybersecurity and the possibility of vehicles being hacked. What safeguards do you have when it comes to OTA software and data updates?
Ans. Cars are becoming more connected than ever before, and this calls for the development of enhanced system designs and additional layers of protection to protect against cybersecurity threats. The industry is addressing these heightened security issues with a continuous process of deploying, learning, and re-deploying based on real world experience. Airbiquity has always designed and built security provisions into our connected car software products and service delivery platform in four critical areas: confidentiality, integrity, authenticity, and availability. Along with continually keeping up-to-date on security-related industry standards and protocols, we follow a robust software security development “v-model” spanning threat and risk assessment through functional and penetration testing. We also routinely conduct third-party security audits, and participate in security related industry communities and forums.
For price conscious customers, doesn’t the use of such technology increase the cost of vehicles?
Ans. There are consumer cost implications for the introduction and proliferation of connected car technology, and the dollar value of the cost implications varies widely based on the sophistication and features of each particular program. Generally, you will see more expensive systems built into more expensive, premium vehicles and less sophisticated, more basic systems being built into less expensive vehicles. However, there is rising consumer awareness and expectations that connected car technology will be available—as a base feature or paid option—in new vehicles. This is why you see every major automaker around the world investing in the development and deployment of connected car programs.
Do you have any products for commercial vehicles?
Ans. Yes, we have a commercial fleet management solution that allows fleet managers to improve operational efficiencies and profitability, monitor and track vehicle asset conditions and driver performance, and provide drivers with relevant and timely information that they can use to drive more efficiently, safely, and achieve compliance with regulations and safety guidelines. Airbiquity uses a highly customized “boutique” approach for its fleet management solutions so we can closely align the program design with our customer’s business and requirement goals. One example is our prior deployment for the Shell Fuel Saver program in Europe that was custom designed from top to bottom.
Can you tell us a bit more about your innovative new product, OTAmatic?
Ans. Consumers increasingly want their vehicles to act like other “devices” they use to get through their daily journeys—like their smartphones. They expect their vehicles to have the capacity to receive software updates to bring them new features and address cybersecurity issues. Simultaneously, automakers are adding advanced technology to new vehicle designs, and this advanced technology is increasingly software-based. This has led to the next big connected vehicle service development area: remote over-the-air (OTA) software updates and data management. An SBD Research analysis forecasted that a third of new vehicle sales in the U. S. will support OTA updates by 2025, and GM recently announced that that their entire vehicle portfolio will be OTA enabled by 2020. Hence, OTA is definitely in our transportation future.
Airbiquity sees a double opportunity when it comes to OTA service delivery. OTA software updates will allow automakers to significantly reduce software related recall expenses and associated consumer time burdens, improve cybersecurity detection and response times, and deliver post-sale vehicle performance and feature enhancements. OTA can also be used for data collection and analytics to improve product quality, operational efficiencies, and to power new “driving centric” consumer services. Driving centric services will be both timely and highly relevant because they will benefit from access to real-time knowledge of vehicle conditions and locations, individual driver behaviors and preferences, and eventually off-board data from closely managed ecosystems and connected transportation infrastructure that are likely to be built in the future.
Airbiquity’s OTAmatic solution takes the complexity out of automotive OTA by reliably and securely orchestrating and automating multi-ECU software updates and data management – at scale. OTAmatic has been designed and engineered specifically for the automotive industry, can be purchased at the component level or as an end-to-end solution, and can be deployed in the Airbiquity cloud (Choreo™), leading public clouds (like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure), or on-premises in customer data centers. OTAmatic is different from other OTA offerings as the product has multi-ECU capability unlike other OTA products, with the ability to manage both software updates and data collection, highly-refined policy-based back-end management system, and global service delivery availability. Backed by 20 years of expertise, Airbiquity’s connected vehicle technology and solution development is trusted by leading automakers around the world.
Ans. Key developments in connected cars will be the continued refinement of traditional connected car use cases incorporating consumer preference and usability feedback, new data and analytic powered driving centric services that are fully focused on vehicle driving and ownership, and continued development of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), vehicle-to-everything (V2X) integration, and eventually fully autonomous driving (defined as SAE levels 4 and 5). When you add it all up, this amounts to a massive amount of change in the automotive industry, significant evolution of consumer transportation experience, improved safety and efficiency, and software technology and cloud service delivery are at the heart of it.
Do you think the use of this kind of technology will in the long run be able to eliminate the impact of human error that can lead to accidents?
Ans. Absolutely. We are already seeing examples of how connected vehicles are saving lives on the road today. For example, there is technology that allows vehicles to automatically adjust highway speeds to maintain safe driving distances from one another. The potential safety impact of connected car technology is also supported by the numbers: 32,000 lives are lost annually in the U.S. due to traffic accidents, and 94 per cent of the traffic accidents can be directly attributed to human error. Autonomous vehicles will be smarter—and therefore safer—than human drivers because they will be loaded with a multitude of sensors and can continually receive all kinds of information about road conditions, traffic signals, other vehicles, and even pedestrians on the street and sidewalks.
Many automotive companies like Audi, Tesla, Ford, Nissan and even technology companies like Google and Apple have experimented with automated driving technology. The line between auto and tech companies is increasingly blurring. In the long run, what impact will this have on the car of the future?
Ans. Autonomous driving technology will require traditional automakers and tier 1 suppliers to continue working with non-traditional technology vendors in an expanding ecosystem. Eventually, automakers will settle on a balance of insourcing and outsourcing, alliances and partnerships, that makes the most sense for them given their business objectives and strategies. And non-traditional technology vendors will make their own business decisions based on their experience working in automotive, which is a very tough low-margin business. For example, Google and Apple figured out they don’t want to be in the business of manufacturing autonomous vehicles themselves, and instead opted to provide autonomous technology to established automakers that have mastered vehicle design and highly scaled production. In the long term, this ecosystem evolution will serve to strengthen the market as a whole, and spur the innovation necessary for developing fully autonomous vehicles.
What else would you like to share with our readers about your company’s plans for the future?
Ans. In the near-term, our top priority is to continue advancing our industry leading OTAmatic™ over-the-air (OTA) software update and data management product offering, and cloud-based service delivery capability in preparation for unannounced automotive customer deployments for future model years. Longer term, we plan to evolve our connected vehicle service software technology innovation, engineering and integration expertise, and product offering portfolio to continue laying the foundation to deliver and power future advancements in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), vehicle-to-everything (V2X), and fully autonomous driving (defined as SAE levels 4 and 5).
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