Automakers Must Grab the Lead in V2X Data Battle

Carmakers will lose the battle for control of data from the connected car unless they take the lead in setting industry standards.

That’s the view of Dr Engelbert Wimmer, CEO and co-founder of automotive consultancy Entrepreneurs & Consultants (E&C), who warns that any reluctance to act will see the digital giants take over the control of vehicle data. He told TU-Automotive: “If they do not take the lead, by the sheer volumes of areas of disadvantage, they will lose out to the digital platforms.”

He pointed to lessons that should be learned from the early development for cellular phone communications nearly 40 years ago. Wimmer explained: “For example, in the 1980s the postal ministers of Europe met in Vienna to have a conference because within the postal responsibility there was also the responsibility of telecommunications signals. They warned about the difficulties that networks were disturbing the each other as borders were crossed. They agreed to set a standard so networks would not be separated, even to use each other’s networks and charge for the use. That became the baseline for GSM, a standard that was two years ahead of the American standards and we had suddenly a market of 400M customers using one standard. This forced other countries to follow the same standard and suddenly we had a unified market.”

With the advance of technologies into 6G and beyond, this need for a standard set and controlled by automakers is vital, said Wimmer. He said: “If you are not doing this and not going ahead with a standardization, for new emerging topologies and 6G, then we will leave this terrain completely open to others to set the standards for us. Then you would be told to join the standard they set and that means giving them the data.


“For mobility, it is high time that someone sets the standard and says ‘this is how you can participate in our networked infrastructure’. It’s not a handset infrastructure, it’s a traffic and mobility infrastructure. With this you can build in a lot of compliance checking and a lot of security checking and you can simply not allow certain data to be taken out of this infrastructure.”

Wimmer said the battle between digital giants and automakers over V2X data is hotting up because he sees a shift away from ‘dumb’ communication models to ‘smart’ ones. He explained: “When looking at the current crop of connected cars we have a very dumb model in terms of what’s fitted to the cars and also a very dumb set of contracts with the providers. For example, we do not even manage to provide wifi to the majority of the cars. So, looking at the topology and the deep technical making of the networks, there is a lot to be done to get more out of these networks. Without these networks you cannot access the cars.

“As much as I am convinced that 5G is a step in the right direction, we need to go into the terahertz area where we will have several million devices per square kilometer and where 6G will be the likely  standard. If I was investing as a Japanese or European automaker, I would be looking into the terahertz technology. There is the next wave of transistors associated with this and there is another dimension of latency times required that all adds up to a completely different topology in the networks that we need to have in order to be really able to get the through-put and density of the networks that we need to be successful. A lot of this will happen with 5G but there is one step ahead that is missing. The 6G consortiums are being founded at the moment.”


Wimmer said it’s time automakers put an end to the digital giants being ‘parasites’ on the communications networks. He explained: “So far, the digital giants have been a bit parasitic on the network side of things. That’s because it is a piece of infrastructure that comes for free for them. This could change because it’s not like you can sit on someone else’s channel, you need to provide the channel or you are not there in the market. This is why players like Google force themselves as part of the mix onto the cars so that they do not need to pay for the network.

“Being master of the construction the network, gives the OEMs a strong negotiation position that they did not ever really understand. The other point here is that real physical data comes out of the vehicle from a host of very different sensors. If you are like Google with a very standard mobile phone architecture, then you can normalize the data but we do not even an idea to get to abstract data.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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