When the world’s first connected car was introduced back in 1996*, its real-time capability to access information was a ‘nice-to-have’ safety feature. As technology has advanced over the decades, the spectrum of connectivity has also evolved. The number of electronic control units in a car has grown dramatically, controlling everything from the drivetrain and emissions to door locks, climate control and suspension. Connected cars have come a long way, and it’s just the beginning.
The growing basket of ‘connected’ features: While the concept of flying cars remains a hotly debated topic amongst Silicon Valley veterans, talking cars are no longer a distant dream. Today, a driver can talk to her car, which can, in turn, ‘talk’ to the infrastructure (vehicle to infrastructure or V2I); to other vehicles (V2V); to the cloud (V2C); to a pedestrian (V2P); and to just about everything (V2X).
Automakers are increasingly introducing enhancements, such as climate control, geo-fencing, auto crash notification, AI-based voice command systems, fully autonomous parking valet technology, and a lot more to their connected car models. Some of these cars also come equipped with an embedded SIM card. With the launch of 5G, automakers can expect significant disruption in the connected car segment, and the day is not far when connectivity will become a regular feature in cars, and not merely a ‘nice-to-have’ attribute.
Data storage is as important as connectivity: Whether it’s a connected car or the one that drives autonomously, it runs on a staple diet of data. It is expected that a single autonomous car will have up to 1 terabyte of storage by 2022. There is a need for high-performance, extremely reliable storage for enabling quick decisions on the road in autonomous driving, as well as economical storage for in-car infotainment applications.
Therefore, the industry is investing in new data centre infrastructures and edge technologies to be able to extract immediate intelligence from captured data that will enhance the driving experience and also make it safer. The giant strides in the development of connected and autonomous vehicles—now and in the future—would also require equally significant advancements in data storage solutions, making data storage as important as connectivity.
Data storage solutions for connected, autonomous vehicles: In a connected car, a part of the data is only kept for a few seconds, while other data is retained for days, months or even years. The digital dashboard requires very little capacity to operate, while navigation and entertainment naturally depend on large files such as maps, images and music files. The exponential growth in the demand for data storage solutions has resulted in continuous innovation in this space.
For example, automotive-grade SD cards designed and manufactured to meet the rigorous reliability, quality and environmental demands of the automotive market. This allows production line flexibility, as well as ease of updating and accessing data for infotainment, navigation applications, and data logging and collection applications. The universal flash storage (UFS) is the newest interface being used in the automotive industry, offering a faster interface for next-generation applications, such as e-cockpits, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and AI-enabled autonomous drive systems.
Rapid industry advances in storage are driving automotive system design in the form of 3D NAND-based e.MMC 5.1 technology—in fact, some cards have a capacity as high as 512 GB.
With rising global competition and fluctuating economies, it is imperative that automakers stay ahead of the curve. Keeping pace with innovation, correctly estimating the demand, improving efficiencies and capabilities, and anticipating the data volume and storage requirements that will best equip their future vehicles will keep them ‘connected’ to their customers.
The author is senior director, Enterprise Sales, Western Digital, India and South Asia
(*The first connected cars were made by General Motors, working with Motorola Automotive, when they introduced OnStar in 1996.)