Addressing Connectivity Uncertainty for the Connected Car

There are a range of factors that will be crucial for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

Among them is 5G connectivity, automation and electrification. They are converging to transform the automotive industry – enabling and enhancing, for example, the connected car. An introduction to a TU-Automotive webinar, which was held in February 2022, and which was sponsored by Infovista went on to add: “From self-driving prototypes on private networks in mines and ports to connected mobility applications that enhance user experiences and enable new business models, the value potential is enormous. Wireless connectivity, however, has gaps and performance variability that, if not well managed, can impact application performance and reliability.”

So, what has changed over the last 2 years – beyond the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, which also caused disruption? To answer this question and others, we spoke to Jack Palmer, senior consultant in Frost and Sullivan’s mobility practice, and Magnus Gunnarsson, Ericsson’s head of connected vehicle portfolio. Key to the discussion were the challenges of delivering connected mobility applications in 2022, including how to avoid connectivity issues impacting customer experience and critical application performance.

Acceleration of connected services

Gunnarsson says there is now a “…notable acceleration of connected services associated with the electric vehicle (EVs). We also see how the connected vehicle landscape is changing from earlier estimates, with stronger focus on over-the-air (OTA) updates and driver-facing connected services. On the flip side, adoption of new ownership models, such as car sharing, are not picking up as quickly as we anticipated five years ago”.

However, he thinks the technology is developing at speed with “an emphasis on high data volumes for the software-defined, highly automated and electric vehicle”. This is leading to an explosion of data volumes from the vehicles, which are surpassing previous forecasts.

He explains: “Several automakers have found it difficult to create sustainable as-a-service (aaS) business models for connected vehicle services. The old adage of the vehicle becoming a subscription and introducing aaS fees to access and provide different ownership models as alternatives to direct ownership or leasing has proven very difficult to navigate.  Many automakers have subsequently stopped, or divested their vehicle subscription services, as the price point, and services suite remain elusive.”

Not much has changed

Palmer adds that not much has changed in terms of the end goal of vehicle connectivity for carmakers. It largely remains much the same as it did in 2020. There is, nevertheless, a trend towards embedded connectivity as standard feature for all vehicles. He says this satisfies consumer expectations and creates and essential data for vehicle manufacturers.

“What remains the same is the desire to achieve a user experience that is highly personalized to the user and contextualized to the driving environment,” he explains before adding that there is semi-conductor shortage – causing automakers to delay or reduce their vehicle launches. They have also had to rethink the digital features they put into their vehicles. With the threat of a recession or worse on the horizon, causing a cost-of-living crisis, they are also having to factor in consumers’ tightened wallets and the potential preference for consumers to purchase their vehicles through subscription.

Improved in-car experiences

So, how have improved in-car experiences and reduced warranty costs through connectivity visibility helped to reduce uncertainty around the connected and autonomous vehicle? Gunnarsson finds that the OTA technology drives cost improvements. “To have an always updated, working and secured vehicle is a clear benefit for the customer, and increasingly customer expectations are changing with Tesla’ as the benchmark,” he suggests.

He also claims that OTA in combination with “feature on demand” means that there now is a positive acceptance for the connected subscription services: “We now see how major OEMs like Daimler, and BMW are experimenting with new subscription based, OTA enabled services for add-on sales throughout the vehicles life.” This will change the way drivers ‘consume’ vehicle services. They may, for example, opt for a standard configuration, then gradually enhance it at cost an in-car app.

Palmer adds: “I think the prospect of in-car experiences and reduced warranty costs are an age-old benefit of the connected vehicle. I don’t think any uncertainty exists around the connected vehicle today. It is now a mainstream element of an OEM’s product planning, which finds itself front-and-center of corporate strategy documents and advertising campaigns.”

Advanced mobility applications

To ensure connectivity, and the certainty of a connection, CAVs can now take advantage of advanced mobility applications for ride-hailing, autonomous and remote driving, as well future connected insurance business models and risk management. Indeed, the role of driving network provider service assurance SLAs using connectivity monitoring data is to provide enterprise customers some degree of insight by offering connectivity analytics derived from the network itself.

Gunnarsson reveals that there are several third-party solutions such as Continual that can “quickly analyze massive numbers of connected vehicle data points across multiple networks.” He refrains to comment about whether automakers “are actively requesting connectivity insight as part of their tendering but generally the automakers are very interested in anything that can improve the customer experience and lean their operational footprint (e.g. first line customer support)”.

Predictive connectivity

In terms of predictive connectivity, he says CAVs have the ability to use this technology to ensure that applications work the most efficiently. This can be done by using better connected routes, by pre-loading data or even request capabilities from the connectivity service provider (CSP) for a certain area. He explains: “One example is service continuation in, for example, a cross border section where service up-time could be guaranteed. A network slicing like functionality may foster CCAM (connected cooperative automated mobility) service deployment.”

He concludes with a vision for enterprises, automakers, and others. That vision suggests that they are going to equip themselves with much richer APIs and analytics in the future. Subsequently, automakers will be able to embed new functionalities such as connectivity insights, means to safeguard service delivery such as network slicing, and ways to procure premium low latency connected services when needed.

This, he suggests, will require a change in the current business models, which will be forced to adapt. It will also transform connectivity procurement programs. However, with increasing data volumes, the need for speed, and secured 5G connectivity, he believes this is the natural way forward. As time goes on, the automotive use cases for predictive connectivity will be further standardized in years to come.

Yet, he advises that commercial, self-driving, stationary vehicles will require very different connectivity to the 5G equipped passenger car and argues that it’s up to the mobile network operators, CSPs, as and their partners to make connectivity easier to consume. By doing so, and by making sure everyone, every vehicle, and every piece of smart infrastructure is always connected, they will reduce uncertainty. Without certainty of connectivity, CAVs adoption will undoubtedly experience the jitters.

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