The connected car is a battlefield among technology purveyors fighting to get their hardware plugged into the vehicle’s network bus. Open source technology is becoming a key contender. OEMs are sorting through a garage full of options from versions of embedded Linux to the Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) distro and the Android car platform.
The connected car concept is picking up speed as a vehicle intelligence system in its own right. It is turning the common car into a fully functional communications center on wheels. Its abilities reach far beyond mere infotainment.
However, car makers face a traffic jam full of business consequences if they stay parked on a dead-end street of proprietary connectivity systems. Open source technology, either on its own or in cooperation with existing in-car systems, has the potential to turn the connected car into a major conduit for gathering Big Data for service providers and OEMs alike.
More user information will be plugged into and fed out of the connected car than is now amassed from consumers’ mobile device activities. To handle this traffic jam of data, car manufacturers are testing technologies like Broadcom’s Automotive Ethernet and The Car Connectivity Consortium’s (CCC) MirrorLink, among others. Similarly, QNX Software Systems has a foot or two in some vehicles with its QNX Car Platform for Infotainment.
“The connected car phenomenon involves two things. One is the core auto ecosystem. The other is providing access from the vehicle to all of the Internet of Things that brings device management conveniences to all of the users’ devices via the Internet into the vehicle,” David Jumpa, chief revenue officer of Airbiquity, told LinuxInsider.
Bone of Contention
The connected car could generate a revenue stream for OEMS, but mobile app makers and in-car service providers could claim at least some of that money flow. So the connected car may well pave the way for a new type of business confrontation within the competing industries.
Automotive is the No. 1 market technology vendors are trying to join, Jumpa said. Every single market technology company is focusing on the auto industry. They are all drawn to the potential for data accumulation from users.
“One problem is service providers like Apple and Google are just bringing their apps and services to the vehicle. They are not allowing the OEM to address safety and security issues,” explained Jumpa.
One part of this business dispute results from competing user preferences for mobile options. Disputes over who owns the data the car user generates causes another part.
The OEMs have to include both Apple and Google services. Otherwise, they will parse new car sales to only part of the competing mobile device brands. If the OEMs do one, they have to do the other. They do not have a choice, according to Jumpa.
The data ownership issue may be harder to resolve. Apple and Google will not allow the OEMS to access their data. As service providers, Apple and Google want full access only. This includes the car maker’s own data.
“So the car makers are starting to say, ‘If I can not get it, then you can not have access to the vehicle at all,’ “Jumpa said.
OEMs Take the Wheel
Both segments must learn to share. Mixing new gadgetry with what already exists gives car makers many more options, according to Kyle Walworth, vice president for automotive solutions and strategy at Symphony Teleca.
“The infotainment industry is changing quite a bit. It used to be that Tier 1 or hardware makers worked directly with OEMs. Now many more players are providing solutions. So OEMs are looking at a combination of solutions that include what Tier 1 suppliers have on the shelf and middleware products,” Walworth told LinuxInsider.
That is why open source technology is becoming more prominent. OEMs and Tier 1s used to develop from the ground up. Almost every time, they would be reinventing the middleware, according to Walworth.
“About five years ago, they started to accept open source code for middleware to stop reinventing nondifferentiating software solutions on their own,” he noted.
Linux Power Gaining Speed
Numerous industry developments are driving the connected car road trip. For instance, automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers are utilizing flexible remote software and configuration management to improve the life cycle of the car after it drives out of the lot.
Another example is the way cloud support is changing the game for auto makers. It is opening the door for advanced analytics. Linux is taking a front seat in both of these developments.
Additionally, developments with Android Auto integration packages recently introduced help bring optimized Android-compliant automotive solutions to market faster.
“Speed to market is also driving the auto makers to share technology and work more cooperatively. I expect to see more consumer models with regular updates to vehicle software systems pushed out every six months,” said Walworth.
Better Shelf Life
Cloud storage and analytics will give car makers new ways of looking at diagnostics and predicting mechanical failures with the Connected Car. Auto makers are just getting into the analytics side of connected cars, so like everything else involved in this process, the technology is a work in progress.
OEMs also are looking at how to leverage the smartcar concept to tap into driver behavior. This helps the OEM design better cars. It gives the driver tools to better use his vehicle, noted Walworth.
“Right now, the different product life cycles of cars and mobile devices represent a major manufacturing challenge for automakers who must future-proof their cars designs to integrate with mobile technology that has not yet entered the market,” Jeff Kavanaugh, vice president and managing partner for the manufacturing and high-tech consulting units at Infosys, told LinuxInsider.
Designing connected cars that will withstand the wear of time will become a critical issue, according to Kavanaugh. Longer-lasting cars will create a deeper reach of Big Data that OEMs will use to monetize their investments in connected car technologies.
“In a world where governments start incentivizing people to retain their cars due to the added life that comes from carbon rather than steal, OEMs will be in real trouble when people stop buying new cars every few years. So what OEMs put into the connected car systems will need durability,” he said.
“Big Data is not yet a big part of the connected car picture — but it is going to get there sooner than later — just like it has with Internet use and mobile connectivity,” Lonnie Schilling, CEO of BirdStep Technology, told LinuxInsider.
For example, car makers are going to start relying on analytics to find out market segment statistics. These include the level of service delivered to a vehicle, what is being consumed, how is it being consumed, and when is it being consumed, he said.
OEM Road Map
How automakers handle these business challenges will determine how successfully they navigate this emerging connected car business model. EOMs will have to do three things, Kavanaugh said.
First, auto manufacturers will have to build in their connected services with the best hardware available and provide software upgrades and new apps via download, similar to today’s smartphones.
Second, automakers will have to begin deploying modulated hardware that can upgrade itself to integrate with future hardware upgrades in mobile devices. This will be triggered by a software mechanism.
Third, the delivery system will have to matter more than the installed computing power. The data support systems will matter more.
“We are advising that car makers, where possible, not necessarily install a supercomputer. Instead, err on the side of caution with more capacity and more bandwidth,” said Kavanaugh.
Big Business Connections
Plugging the connected car into the Internet will not be a one-stop system. The connected car will intersect both cellular and WiFi networks, according to Schilling.
The OEM will set the controls or usage policies of the Internet connection. That same technology can be used to set rules on third-party access, he noted. That will allow connectivity access for mobile device data exchanges through the car at certain times — or when only public WiFi or other WiFi is available.
“This will make the experience for customers better, safer and more secure. It will also help the OEM to offload much of the ongoing connectivity expenses to the car buyer,” Schilling said.
Wireless connectivity will be the roadway to the clouds outside the moving car, but the future of in-car connectivity may well travel along Ethernet, predicted Jim Smith, vice president of marketing at Ixia.
“Ethernet was not a great fit in the past due to latency issues. That has been addressed. With all of the apps available on devices, bandwidth becomes a pressing issue. Ethernet is the answer,” Smith told LinuxInsider.
In-car connectivity will need a standard that all OEMs follow. Ethernet is a physical network to connect the systems in the car to the Internet. It will be complementary rather than a primary solution, he said.
“The automotive industry and mobile industry are engaged in a lot of ongoing cooperation. We need to stay focused on how they will deliver highly scalable, very secure interoperable environments that are very ubiquitous and provide very intuitive connectivity,” said Schilling.
Business or Buyers First?
The connected car brings OEMs and car buyers closer together than ever before. Until now, the auto dealer served as a conduit to the car maker. That will change with telematics connecting to a Big Data highway.
Any OEM that does not take advantage of this connection will be at a big disadvantage. OEMs that do not do a good job with this connection will surely lose out. They will not get the renewals through customer loyalty, said Kavanaugh.
“This new tether to OEMs amplifies every experience the customer has with the car. The connected car is a magnifying rod to the customer relations with the car maker,” he said.
For car makers, the bottom line still may be determined by car buyer preferences for device connectivity. When customers do not buy cars because their devices do not work in it, OEMs will have to start paying attention.
That could lead to differentiated or tiered telematic offerings sold with the new vehicle. The main reasons that differentiated service options have not been used is the inability of OEMs to accommodate that degree of customer choice with their Tier 1 providers, according to Jumpa.
“OEMs built a system to do one thing: provide safety and security,” he said. “With technology companies coming into the picture, that focus is changing.”