Digital Transformation Creates Platform to Deliver Sustainable Mobility

The Covid-19 pandemic is causing tectonic plates to slide in the automotive industry, and in indeed in many others.

However, it’s not the only factor that is causing a shift. Consumer purchasing behavior, electric vehicle adoption is increasing, connect and autonomous vehicle technology is important, and there is a push to, as Markus Winkler is head of global automotive sector at Capgemini says: “Adopt sustainable operational practices, forcing the sector to not only assess its ecological balance sheet but its social and ethical responsibilities as well.”

Claes Herlitz, head of connected vehicles at Ericsson, says the megatrends of autonomous drive and electrification are fueled by connectivity. With electric vehicles being pushed by lobbyists as supposedly a more sustainable and greener option that gasoline and diesel powered vehicles, he believes that the trend towards electrification wouldn’t happen without connectivity. He explains: “We need to know where the vehicle is and to estimate the travel range. As late as five to six years ago OEMs said they will deal with autonomous drive. You can’t accelerate autonomous drive without the presence of connectivity and ongoing ICT development.”

A colleague of his at Ericsson adds, with reference to shared mobility: “You can rent a vehicle without the digital infrastructure/connectivity but shared mobility can never work without the digital community.” In essence it’s about electrification, autonomous and shared mobility. They are all driven by connectivity.

Software-defined vehicle

The other angle he reveals is about the software-defined vehicle, which he claims will create more sustainable vehicles. He adds: “We are looking at OEMs such as General Motor’s Triple-Zero Vision strategy, which aims to reduce CO2 emissions but they really can’t execute it without connectivity. It will drive it from an autonomous and energy consumption perspective.” His colleague adds: “This secures the connectivity transparency and cost control for the OEM, which is required to succeed with sustainable operation.”

Varun Krishna Murthy, senior research analyst ADAS and autonomous driving, at Frost and Sullivan, says a recent study by his company “indicates that by 2030 software content in vehicle is expected increase by two folds from 2020”. With in-vehicle requirements growing, he believes it is critical to “adopt a new digital platform that is scalable to adopt more lines of software codes until full autonomy is achieved”.

His colleague, Suhas Gurumurthy, industry analyst connected cars adds: “Sustainable mobility calls for organizations to turn cars into environmentally sustainable, economical and socially impactful modes of transport. Digital transformation is key not only for the in-vehicle aspects but also for the external vehicle infrastructure.”

Sustainable operational practices

Herlitz says is it vital for automakers to assess and adopt sustainable operational practices. In fact, he goes so far to say that for them it’s a matter of survival. Sustainability has to be a key driver, and to achieve it automakers need ICT investments and cloud connectivity. His colleague elaborates: “It is about utilizing the power of the cellular network to accelerate the vehicle experience. The latest cellular 5G network is designed for enterprises and with its low latency and high bandwidth it is optimal for use cases in the automotive industry: e.g. autonomous drive and real time communication from or to vehicles. A tight integration between the car, cloud and network to creating seamless experience is key for the enterprises and this is where Ericsson is engaging with the automotive industry.”

This will require a considerable number of ongoing investments in the car and, with the march towards fully autonomous vehicles, cloud and car-related technologies have become increasingly interconnected. This will include network investments for reliable cloud connectivity.

So, why is consumer behavior changing: what factors and trends are acting as the catalysts for change? Gurumurthy finds that the advances achieved by automakers in connected and automated services “are driven by customer demand for connected features owing to improved digital lifestyles and the need for better, cheaper and simpler mobility solutions”.

He adds: “Recent consumer research indicates that, in addition to infotainment and navigation related services, safety services are considered to be the most relevant and affect the vehicle purchasing criteria. The effect of COVID also plays a key role in a transition that is critical to the digital transformation driven by customer preferences. More in-vehicle digital services would be favored as users learn about the use of online payments, digital assistants, e-commerce, gaming, and so on.”

CARE drivers

Ericsson’s response is to talk about ‘CARE’ (Connected, Automated, Re-defined business models, and the Electrification). Herlitz says they are the main drivers. However, with regards to connected and autonomous vehicle adoption, nothing is clear cut from the consumer’s perspective. Firstly, regulations are falling behind in his opinion, and there is still a fear of automation – trusting more a human driver than a vehicle that can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to drive itself.

“Baby-steps are therefore essential as passengers are suspicious of boarding a bus that doesn’t have a human driver,” he says. However, like with everything in life, those concerns eventually dissipate with experience. In his opinion changing in perception and consumer behavior have to occur alongside the development of 5G, simply because “authorities won’t allow a highly automated system without it always being connected”. Furthermore, his colleague explains that 5G provides the low latency connectivity required for secure highly automated systems.

He adds: “The adoption of electric vehicles is a matter of scale. The software-defined vehicle goes hand-in-hand with it. Sustainability creates a new perception of your car. We now see the highly connected electric car coming to life. You will have to integrate connectivity into the vehicle to improve the experience. OEMs have understood this, and they are now integrating it into the travelling experience.”

Like Herlitz, Gurumurthy stresses the success of the Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electric (CASE) mobility (C.A.S.E) strategy depends very much on connectivity. He explains: “Connectivity allows higher levels of vehicle autonomy with the help of embedded telematics, V2X and related technologies (such as 5G, edge computing) and will prove to be the basis of all communications in the next 5 years.”

“Faster implementation of such technologies paves the way for up-to-date in-vehicle applications, real-time data sharing, in-vehicle e-commerce, feature or function-on-demand services, etc. Connected vehicle technologies augment safety-related use cases by expanding perception of SAE L3+ vehicles and incorporating real-time information at all levels. It also offers comfort by improving UI and UX for the autonomous driving scenarios.”

From Spotify to safety

There has already been a shift over the last decade. At that time the car became a Spotify extension. He says it’s now about better braking systems, expanding the warning systems around the vehicle, more telematics, as well as being about the maintenance programs of each automaker. In other words, the shift has gone from being about music to a focus on the real-time experience of the car.

Varun Krishna Murthy therefore predicts that we can expect more “innovation in both technology and business approaches to introduce higher levels of autonomous driving in the market” over the next 5 years. This will include a new generation of sensors, such as 4D LiDAR. He thinks that high-definition cameras will also emerge with improved performance capabilities at a lower cost. They will drive in his view higher adoption. He forecasts that the quality of map data will “evolve in resolution leading to raise of high definition and 3D maps to enable SAE level 4 autonomous driving”, and adds: “Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and machine learning will find application in many comfort, convenience and safety features, driving automation and self-reliance.”

Herlitz comments that much has already improved. There is the transformation from 4G to 5G, and the availability of cloud technology has too. The network after all is a vital extension of each connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV). It is therefore becoming easier to realize autonomous use cases and so he predicts that this is the area where most innovations will occur. It’s also an opportunity for the mobile network operators, cloud providers and automakers to explore.

Yet, he concludes, there are a number of use case still waiting to emerge because the foundation for them just hasn’t been there to date. But now, with the network being the natural extension of the software-defined vehicle in his view, innovations are occurring. “I hope is that we will come together with the OEMs and the MNOs to drive innovation forward” with Cloud as the platform for cellular innovation, and with the understanding that each car will be cloud-connected, and each vehicle will be interconnected, and with the surrounding ecosystem – including pedestrians, bicycles, traffic infrastructure, etc. This will be Transportation 3.0, which is coming soon with digital transformation.

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