Digital standardisation is the next great leap

Adam Boulton argues that standardising the digital ecosystem in vehicles will allow players to offer exciting new products and features

In the age of the cloud and the Internet of Things, the automotive industry must prepare for the next great leap: digital standardisation. Just as the use of universally compatible nuts and bolts opened a new era for cars in the twentieth century, creating a congruous digital ecosystem will revolutionise the automotive industry of today.

In recent years, app designers and programmers working on vehicles have faced a digital ecosystem resembling Frankenstein’s monster. Modern cars and trucks are built with thousands of parts from many different suppliers, with each vehicle model comprising a unique set of proprietary hardware and software components. These components, including an increasing variety of vehicle sensors, produce data in unique and specialised formats. The highly specific skills required to interact with this data, as well as the challenges of accessing it from within contained vehicle subsystems, limit developers’ abilities to innovate quickly and bring new solutions to market.

Just as the use of universally compatible nuts and bolts opened a new era for cars in the twentieth century, creating a congruous digital ecosystem will revolutionise the automotive industry of today

The value of organising this chaos and incompatibility cannot be overemphasised. What is most exciting is that the technology to address these issues already exists, and without having to take every existing car off the road for a redesign.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning allow manufacturers to gain greater insights than thought possible even a few years ago. These technologies can provide a way to read vehicle sensor data, normalise it, and create actionable insights from that data—regardless of the different components. 

Greater communication between a car’s components could also offer new safety features. Vehicle sensors throughout the car including cameras, GPS, odometers, and many others would be able to feed into a common processor in the car or the cloud that can build a more accurate picture of the conditions facing the car. For instance, it could automatically detect icy roads and enable relevant vehicle safety features such as traction control and advise the driver to reduce his or her speed.

In recent years, app designers and programmers working on vehicles have faced a digital ecosystem resembling Frankenstein’s monster

As well as improving the tangible driving experience, connected cars would be able to gather and process data to create new insights into efficiency and maintenance. For instance, by analysing real-time performance data, automakers could recognise the first signs of potentially faulty parts, allowing them to diagnose and prevent total failures before they happen. This includes allowing developers to remotely deploy updates to vulnerable software, as well as alerting drivers to wear and tear detected in physical components.

100 years ago, standardisation radically transformed how cars were made and consumed. Today, the automotive industry stands on the brink of another revolution. By standardising the digital ecosystem in vehicles, the automotive industry will be able to offer exciting new products and features that will improve the driving and passenger experience.


The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Adam Boulton is Chief Technology Officer, BTS (BlackBerry Technology Solutions) at BlackBerry

The Automotive World Comment column is open to automotive industry decision makers and influencers. If you would like to contribute a Comment article, please contact editorial@automotiveworld.com

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