ANGELES — When cars exit the tunnel of the next 15
years, they’ll be like giant smartphones.
sensors will capture sight, sound and motion and
transmit the information to the internet quickly and
affordably. The $100 billion app economy built on data
from smartphones would look small compared with the $750
billion in revenue produced around cars.
forecast has automakers buzzing. As they accelerate
spending on developing self-driving cars, they’re
devoting enormous attention on what to do with data that
those high-tech devices generate — beyond making the
drive automated. Among the possibilities: selling
details about driving patterns to real estate developers
or using it in personalized insurance calculations.
the road to such a future could be more treacherous than
traditional giants of the auto industry expect. They’re
assuming the costs of sensors will fall enough to
justify data collection efforts. They’re betting they
can easily transfer the data, though it could be
thousands of times the volume discharged by smartphones.
And they’re hoping their role — and moneymaking
potential — in the new realm isn’t marginalized.
challenge comes from Silicon Valley breathing down the
neck of the old guard. Younger auto rivals Tesla Motors,
NextEV, Faraday Future and even Apple could have a head
start on reinventing the technical guts of cars to pair
with smartphone-grade software.
tell NextEV U.S. Chief Executive Padmasree Warrior that
they’re bulking up software development teams. The
former chief technology officer at Cisco Systems and
Motorola tells them that’s good, but not sufficient.
of the heritage they have, it’s hard to say, ‘How
can I build this from ground zero?’" Warrior said
in an interview at the LA Auto Show. "They are
trying to look at it as, ‘Can I just get the software
and put it on an existing hardware platform,’ and I’m
(making) the point it never works that way."
full package will come together for some, technologists
say. But their concern is that the likes of Ford, Toyota
and others are underestimating obstacles. What seems
five years away could be 10 years out, and business and
strategy executives are jumping the gun on technology
implement data-based business models, cars need to look
like cellphones," said Josh Hartung, chief
executive of automotive software startup PolySync.
founded the Portland, Ore., company to close the
sophistication-gap. PolySync’s software aggregates
data from lasers, radar and cameras on the car.
Organizing it is meant to help apps harness the data as
easily as smartphone operating systems do.
software "is the meat in the middle" for
smartphones, Hartung said. But "there’s nothing
like that" to turn cars into feature-rich devices.
an alliance of auto parts companies, is tackling similar
issues. It’s working with leading online technology
groups on standards that would enable app makers to
write one program and have it function across many
vehicles. Without that simplicity, potential buyers for
car data may be scared away. But wide adoption of
standards isn’t certain.
the biggest hurdle," said Rudolf Streif, system
architect at Jaguar Land Rover, a Genivi member.
experts think they can get over the smaller ones. Sensor
costs and sizes need to fall, so cars don’t end up
expensive, ugly robots. Without the evolution, there won’t
be much data to pick at.
concerns are "definitely in the category of things
you can get over in the next couple of years or next
five years," said Sanjay Ravi, Microsoft’s
worldwide managing director for automotive, aerospace
and other manufacturing industries.
goes for modernizing mobile telecommunications networks
so that a large volume of automotive data can reach
online storage. Tesla’s cars already turn minutes-long
uploads into seconds-long tasks, and other carmakers are
sure to try to follow.
BMW and others recently launched an alliance with mobile
networking technology providers to hammer out
infrastructure ideas. But no services were among launch
partners, and their initial upgrades may take years to
get past big cities. That could significantly slow the
adoption of data businesses that require consistent
compensate for data limits and connectivity issues,
automakers want to shift some data processing to the
car. The idea is that self-driving and other features
could be powered by artificial intelligence software
without an internet connection.
updates would occasionally transfer between the car and
the internet, informing and allowing for updates to the
software. But this so-called system of fog computing
remains untested at the imagined scale.
if fog computing works, some data will have to be stored
online. That means automakers have to prepare for
boosting spending on storage, said Intel’s Doug Davis,
senior vice president and general manager of a division
dealing with cutting-edge mobile devices.
a realization I got to do this," Davis said.
"I have to build significant data-center
that data from hackers looms as a new charge for
automakers. They’ll also have to find new teams to
actually analyze any data they want to spin into uses
for their own business. Prioritizing what to build —
whether it be tools tied to roadside assistance or
ride-hailing advertising — is taking up significant
thought, Ravi said.
30 data-related business opportunities could produce up
to $750 billion in annual revenue worldwide by 2030,
consulting firm McKinsey estimated in a September
report, comparing it to a forecast of $5 trillion in
traditional auto sales.
startups think they’ll have an advantage in the
ecosystem, with carmakers leaning on their expertise. It’s
already starting to show, with a flood of acquisitions
and investments for companies focusing on specific
pieces of technology.
"the only companies that win in the future will be
the ones that work on the entire" process, from
developing hardware to hawking data, NextEV’s Warrior
said during an industry presentation.
industries, including retail and entertainment, face the
same problems as the auto world in reaching their
big-data visions. But in automakers’ heads, the stakes
are unequal because self-driving cars could save lives.
It’s that sentiment that gives them optimism that they’ll
quickly get past challenges and significantly alter the
good to fantasize and reach for the stars," Jaguar’s
Streif said. "Even if the stars out of reach, there
are a lot of opportunities in between, and they are only
discovered if you think bigger."