15 July 2017

Automotive Industry, Internet of Things and Smart City

The automotive industry has come a long way since 1886 when the commercial production of automobiles began. For the Auto 1.0 [1] ecosystem, cars were truly novelties, expensive and time consuming to produce. During Auto 2.0 (post 1950s), cultural and economic forces shaped the auto industry. It shifted its focus on performance, dealer diagnostics and basic infotainments. The technology was still invisible to the customers. Right now, we are at Auto 2.5 (Fig.1) which is a transition period to Auto 3.0 ecosystem. Well established auto OEMs (e.g. BMW, Audi) and new market entrants (e.g. Tesla) has been looking into the true potential of software beyond infotainment. For example, customers can now avail OTA software updates for some repair problems and add new software features without going to a dealer. The "always connected" aspect is one of the driving forces behind this. 

Figure 1: Auto 2.5: Connected Cars [2]
In parallel, the Internet is evolving too. The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to revolutionize the automotive industry. Cars (depicted in Fig.1) have the capabilities of exchanging sensor data with an OEM or third party Cloud Computing infrastructure over 3G/4G networks. The Cloud backends can provide services like (i) the quickest route to a destination, (ii) finding the nearest fuel station, (iii) searching for an empty parking, (iv) automatic diagnostics of cars and more. The IoT is also assisting in making Smart City initiatives a reality. Several cities around the world are deploying infrastructure for better road safety, co-operative mobility management, reduce pollution etc. 

The Auto 1.0 and 2.0 can not be a part of the IoT and Smart Cities due to a lack of - (i) powerful On Board Units (OBU), (ii) vehicle to vehicle and infrastructure communication looks, (iii) standards and (iv) integration with next-gen ICT. To fully benefit from the ongoing technological evolution, the auto industry is responding with Auto 3.0 ecosystem. The focus of Auto 3.0 are - 
  • Support Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) through V2X Communications.
  • Expose vehicular resources for data collection, processing, management and storage.
  • Seamless communication and information exchange among vehicular gateways, Edge & Cloud platforms and consumer devices.
  • Seamless interoperability among vehicles, external computing platforms and consumers.
The technological evolution leading to Auto 3.0 is exploiting the IoT and in turn enabling - 

  • Automatic vehicle information discovery and exchange with computing systems and other vehicles.
  • Enhanced access and core networking.
  • Computing on vehicular sensor data.
As a result, connected cars are truly becoming resources for the IoT ecosystem [3]. Thus, on-board sensor data are used to understand pollution level, traffic flow in a city and even manage road intersections. This can effectively reduce the number of sensors needed to be deployed in emerging smart cities. 

In a nutshell, the combined (Auto 3.0, IoT and Smart City) ecosystem integrates - (i) vehicular resources (sensors, actuators), (ii) ITS & V2X technologies, (iii) Edge and Cloud Computing platforms to perform sensor data analysis and (iv) consumer centric services. It will potentially lead to connected cars as an IoT service which is frequently called - "Automotive IoT".

[1] http://www.ntti3.com/wp-content/uploads/Automotive_as_a_Digital_Business_V1.03-1.pdf

[2] http://design.avnet.com/axiom/autorama-connecting-your-car-to-the-internet-of-tomorrow

[3] S. K. Datta, J. Haerri, C. Bonnet and R. Ferreira Da Costa, "Vehicles as Connected Resources: Opportunities and Challenges for the Future," in IEEE Vehicular Technology Magazine, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 26-35, June 2017.

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