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3 ways sensor data is transforming the auto Industry

Car companies are now software companies where data is the currency of the realm. By Marc Huijbregts

By 2030, nearly 95% of new vehicles sold globally will be connected, sharing Internet access and data with other devices inside and outside of the vehicle. In the much-nearer future, the volume of data transmitted between these connected vehicles and the cloud through sensors and related software will be close to 100 petabytes per month. Otonomo, a car data services platform, projected that each connected vehicle produces 25GB of data per hour.

Where does this leave automotive companies? With an influx of data, and the potential value that comes with it. Capitalising on this data will transform how they do business. Car companies are now software companies where data is the currency of the realm.

There are early signs that auto data can be put to good use. For example, Volvo introduced Care in 2017, the first subscription model that used new sources of data to bundle a car, maintenance, and insurance into one monthly subscription fee. Last year, Mercedes partnered with London, England to explore how connected car data could improve safety on the city streets.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. As sensor technologies continue to advance, leading automotive companies are starting to transform in three big ways.

Care by Volvo
Volvo Care used new sources of data to bundle a car, maintenance, and insurance into one monthly subscription

From manufacturing to mobility

Outside of Tesla, the majority of auto companies were not ‘born in the cloud’. However, even incumbent players with decades—and in some cases, over a century—of experience are now adopting innovative technologies in order to remain relevant and competitive. Two recent examples that illustrate this shift are Bosch and Denso.

In 2005, Bosch (founded in 1886), started manufacturing sensors for consumer electronics. Since then, it has seen the IoT opportunity and expanded the business accordingly. Through its Mobility Products and Services group, Bosch now provides sensing solutions to global automotive manufacturers that enable autonomous driving, active safety features, and predictive maintenance. These sensing solutions create a continuous flow of massive amounts of data, and once analysed at scale, can be leveraged to create new business opportunities. For example, an automotive manufacturer can collect and analyse data from car sensors, and share that data with insurance providers to change the way insurance policies are created.

Similarly, Denso has a large portfolio of legacy products and services from its initial automotive parts business, but has recently become a provider of mobility solutions that connect vehicles with IoT.bDenso produces an edge computing platform that connects vehicles to cloud networks to offer new services. The architecture replicates real-life urban environments and traffic conditions in a virtual space; collects the data, then analyses it to anticipate traffic issues. The data is used by service providers, including administrative agencies and service shops, to facilitate repairs and maintenance. In this way, mobility service providers can analyse data and control vehicles safely from the cloud, matching vehicles with the right services and ultimately reducing service times and costs.

Bosch Mobility Solutions
The Bosch mobility solutions web portal presents highlights from the areas of connected mobility, automated mobility, and powertrain systems and electrified mobility

Denso believes that the only way to eliminate accidents is to equip all forms of mobility with safety technology—from sensors that ascertain traffic patterns, environmental conditions, and even a driver’s health condition, to algorithms and control systems that can make split-second decisions.

Driving new innovation

Vehicle sensors are also being used in other modes of transportation such as long-haul trucking. Aurora, a self-driving vehicle company develops technology that can be integrated into cars and trucks for autonomous driving capabilities.

The company’s technology platform, the Aurora Driver, consists of sensors that perceive the world, software that charts a safe path through it, and the computer that powers and integrates them both with the vehicle. Rather than depending on one type of sensor for the self-driving technology, Aurora combines the strengths of different types of sensors—high-resolution cameras, 4-D imaging radar, and its custom LiDAR technology that enables trucks to drive farther and travel more safely at high speeds—to create a more reliable system. They then license the technology to self-driving vehicle fleet companies so they can retain the data, analytics, and insights of all the miles driven across all vehicle fleets.

Driving new revenue streams

General Motors was one of the first traditional automakers to collect connected-car data with the introduction of OnStar in 1996. A key byproduct of OnStar is that it provides assorted driver behavioural data that GM can monetise. In 2021, GM reported that it had 20 million connected cars on the road in 47 countries, resulting in enormous amounts of data and potential new revenue opportunities. One such opportunity is OnStar Insurance, a user-based insurance service that focuses on such things as individual vehicle usage and rewards for safe driving habits. Using built-in vehicle sensors, OnStar Insurance tracks vehicle usage and driving habits and uses that data to offer discounts and incentives to those drivers who practice safe driving.

OnStar Insurance
OnStar Insurance reflects a shift to an integrated, data-driven auto insurance model

OnStar Insurance is just one of roughly 20 start-ups GM has planned in an effort to double annual revenues by 2030. GM projects annual software and services revenue opportunities to be between US$20bn and US$25bn, from a projected 30 million connected vehicles by the end of the decade. The OnStar connectivity platform has more than 16 million connected vehicles on the road today, according to GM, with software and services generating a projected US$2bn in annual revenue. OnStar Insurance is a key part of this growth, as GM projects it to have a potential revenue opportunity of more than US$6bn annually by the end of the decade.

As the vehicle continues to evolve from being strictly a mode of transportation to a product that offers new services and value through cloud-networking connections, the automotive industry must act fast in order to reap the benefits—revenue, profit, customer retention, and more—of leveraging new sources of information throughout the entire lifecycle of the automotive value chain.

About the author: Marc Huijbregts is Global IoT Lead at WANdisco

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