Connected Vehicle

Scott Frank: Proliferation of over-the-air (OTA) technology and solutions will further expand the automotive supplier ecosystem

Scott Frank-telematicswire
Scott Frank, VP, Airbiquity

Telematics Wire got into conversation with Scott Frank, VP of Airbiquity. In the interview, Scott talks about over-the-air updates in automotive domain and related topics.

TW: How is over-the-air (OTA) impacting the automotive ecosystem?

Scott: Similar to connected vehicle infotainment deployments which have now become widespread, the introduction and eventual proliferation of over-the-air(OTA)technology and solutions will further expand the automotive supplier ecosystem. Infotainment brought content and service suppliers from the online and mobile handset world like Facebook, Spotify, Google, and Apple into the vehicle cockpit. OTA will bring new software update, data management, data analytics, cybersecurity, electronic hardware, and microprocessor technology and service providers(to name a few major ones) into the mix. Some of these players have been working in automotive all along, but not in the OTA vertical. While others are new to the industry and will need to acclimate to the unique aspects of working in automotive.

TW: Can you cite some use cases confirming monetary benefits of OTA updates?

Scott: Initial OTA cost-saving estimates are primarily attributed to reducing automaker expenses for updating software related to vehicle production, recalls, cybersecurity breaches, maintenance, and delivery of feature improvements. Updating software in a non-OTA enabled vehicle is a time-consuming manual process that is performed by the automaker pre-purchase or authorized dealers and service providers post-purchase. Vehicles with OTA capability will be able to receive their software updates remotely, thereby eliminating automaker costs associated with the manual software update process which have been estimated at $50 per ½ hour of labor. When you factor in multiple software updates per year per vehicle, for hundreds of millions of vehicles across multiple automotive manufacturers, the global expense savings estimate grows into the billions. For example, a 2015 IHS Market report cites a $35 billion cost savings estimate which is definitely worth investing in OTA technology and deployments.

TW: What would you say about the increasing role of telecommunication companies in the automotive space? 

Scott: Mobile network operators (MNOs) have long been a key part of the connected vehicle value chain because they provide the network connectivity portion of the overall solution. As the network bandwidth demand from connected vehicles exponentially grow to power advanced driving assistance system (ADAS), vehicle-to-everything (V2X), and fully autonomous driving (defined as SAE Level 4 & 5) the MNOs will meet that demand with higher capacity networks—at hopefully lower costs.MNOs are definitely an essential part of the big picture and will continue to be so going forward. Hopefully, they will be able to provide the automotive industry with the necessary bandwidth at an acceptable cost and not become an impediment to the deployment and consumer adoptions of advanced technologies and solutions. Fortunately, automotive represents a significant amount of net new device opportunity for MNOs, and we’re seeing both the interest and investment on their part to keep up with the technology development in the space.

TW: Do you see any limitations of OTA updates? How do we overcome it?

Scott: Security is an increasing concern as vehicle connectivity and cloud service delivery extends beyond infotainment in the cabin to critical systems and components across the entire vehicle platform.Addressing this concern will require the development of more sophisticated system design and additional layers of protection to thwart cybersecurity threats. In response, the industry is taking heightened security issues head on with a continuous process of deploying, learning, and re-deploying software based on real world experience. For example, Airbiquity routinely builds security provisions into our connected car software products and service delivery platform in four critical areas: confidentiality, integrity, authenticity, and availability. We also follow a robust software security development “v-model” spanning threat and risk assessment through functional and penetration testing, and keep up-to-date on security-related industry standards and protocols. Third-party security audits are routinely conducted, and the company actively participates in security related communities and forums. Like other connected devices in the internet-of-everything (IoT) world we live in, cybersecurity for automotive will be a continual battle that must be invested in and diligently fought.

TW: What are the challenges related to program integration, which involves software programming and software/hardware integration?

Scott: Automotive technologies and solutions are much more complex than what you’ll find in other consumer“ devices” like smartphones, personal computers, and set-top boxes. The reason is vehicles have become very sophisticated machines with hundreds of primary hardware and software components sourced from a multitude of suppliers, and they ‘ll get even more complex with continued development of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), vehicle-to-everything (V2X), and fully autonomous driving (defined as SAE level 4 & 5) features.

Airbiquity develops software that’s embedded into hardware in the vehicle, and hosted in the cloud. We also integrate software, hardware, and network connectivity from the vehicle to the cloud to create an end-to-end solution that can be efficiently and effectively managed on the “back-end” as a highly-scalable service. We can tell you from experience that this work is not easy to do, requires unique skill sets and benefits from experience, and is held to a very high automotive grade standard of production quality and dependability. So yes, it’s challenging, but also rewarding given the significant impact transportation has always had on society.

TW: What are your views about software-defined cars?

Scott: Today, there are more lines of code in a luxury connected vehicle than a modern fighter jet. In the early 90s no one could have predicted where we would be today with cars becoming defined by the software powering them. Now we’re routinely seeing automakersdeveloping software technology and solutions in-house, partnering with traditional automotive suppliers, and working with tech companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere that have limited experience in automotive. Most large tech companies—Intel, Google, Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Qualcomm—have formed automotive specific teamsto get into the market for the long-haul.The software-defined car has definitely created ahighlycompetitive marketplace that will continue to drive technology innovation.

We’ve collectively made progress on integrating software into vehicles to improve comfort, performance, efficiency, and security—but there’s still a long way to go. Although software technology has been hugely impactful in the automotive industry over the last 20 years, we believe the future of automotive will actually be a hardware-software defined ecosystem versus a software only defined ecosystem. The reason is vehicles will always require hardware and software working together. Therefore, the ability to effectively integrate hardware and software together to meet the needs of commercial businesses and consumers will ultimately separate theindustry winners from the losers.

TW: Can you share your views about the ownership of data generated?

Scott: For background, the major categories of data collected are vehicle operational data and driving behavior data, and the specific data points that are collected vary based on the business and program requirements of the automaker deploying the program. There will also be an increasing amount of data points—and data volume— that can be exported off a vehicle due to continual advancements in on-board technology like cameras and sensors. Most automakers are moving to collect as much data as possible going forward to maximize their data and analytic opportunities which span product support, customer service, operations, procurement, and monetization. When it comes to automakers sharing data, there isn’t a lot of that going on right now due to the relative immaturity of data collection and analytics in the industry. But we expect that to change going forward with the introduction of OTA systems, expanded managed ecosystems and associated monetization efforts.

Having said all this, the industry will need to begin differentiating data that belongs to the automaker from data that belongs to vehicle owners and drivers. At a macro level, we think a likely scenario is vehicle operational data (system and component level) will be owned by the automakers who can leverage it to understand the vehicle condition, ensure its operating as intended, detect cybersecurity breaches, and conduct vehicle recalls, maintenance, and service. Driving behavior data (location, speed, braking, etc.) will be owned by consumers, and automakers will be required to enable consumers to opt-in or opt-out to sharing their data at any point in time.Consumers will increasingly look for something of value in return for sharing their data, and the automakers and extended ecosystems will need to clearly define that value to be successful. If they get it right there’s a true win-win to be had which is terrific for the industry and consumers alike.

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