Driver expectations are evolving. While the emphasis was once on a car’s design, comfort, and speed, users now have an appetite for electric engines, innovative features like driverless experiences, and flexible ownership. Customers worldwide want an increasingly optimized, enhanced, and safe user experience. 

As part of this transition, automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are pulling in vast amounts of data from test cars for detailed scrutiny and analysis. The resulting insights are then passed on to innovation and development teams to improve aspects such as quality assurance, speed, and delivery. 

Right now, one of the biggest challenges for the automotive industry is how to overcome a sudden loss of wireless signal so that the integrity of mid-transmission data is preserved. A promising way forward is to use software to bridge such gaps wherever they might occur throughout the entire partner and cloud provider ecosystem. We anticipate that such specially designed software will be capable of storing data both at the edge and data management layer, ready to continue and complete a suspended transmission with no loss of information as soon as connectivity is restored.

Changing Customer Expectations

Customer tastes in vehicle ownership are changing. In the U.K., new petrol and diesel car sales are set to cease by 2030. In 2020, European demand for electric vehicles hit a record high as new registrations topped 1.4 million while “generation Uber” isn’t convinced they need to own a car at all. Working from home and changes in shopping habits have seen foot traffic in car showrooms drop dramatically. In addition, online services that allow consumers to compare vehicles, arrange financing, or take out a subscription are growing. 

All this has triggered a race among OEMs to develop data-led customer experience strategies. Electric engines, driver autonomy, vehicle connectivity, safety, and flexible ownership have become the new battleground.

OEMs Are Driven by Data and Testing 

As is the case in many other industries, the evolution of OEMs is fundamentally about how data is collected at remote hubs and automatically relayed at speed to receiving equipment for monitoring and analysis. This process is known as telemetry. OEMs are placing themselves at the center of a web of data links that simultaneously connect to their business partners and every major cloud service provider in the world. The next step for OEMs is to figure out how to reliably capture huge volumes of telemetry data at speed and at scale.

Telemetry data captured by OEMs during in-vehicle tests is helping to accelerate the rate of innovation, as well as enhance the overall speed, flexibility, and agility of the IT department. As you can imagine, it’s a highly complex and multi-faceted challenge with many interconnecting parts. 

For instance, in one test, up to 150 terabytes of data per day is pulled from 15 different cars as they drive around. This data is then ingested into the analytics layer for insights and analysis. The results are fed back to the software development team, so they can make any necessary adjustments before feeding updates back to the test vehicles. 

The OEM is at the center of this ecosystem, which has to allow multiple developers sufficient bandwidth to access the platform in parallel. The system must simultaneously bridge with other applications in the ecosystem and deliver the same data accessibility and performance for everyone regardless of where they are in the world or where the cloud provider they connect to is located. This is only possible if you have technology that can withstand a simple connection loss and maintain data integrity, even in the case of a car where the network edge is constantly on the move.

Solving Connectivity Is Fundamentally a Software Issue

One of the principal reasons Pure Storage is so well-positioned to help auto OEMs is that they’re on a journey similar to our own. When we first started, it seemed natural to place all our telemetry data in the cloud. But as the volume of data grew, it simply wasn’t economically viable long term. 

It then became a natural process of evolution. First, it was the cloud, then on premises, then hybrid cloud, and finally multi-cloud. We believe that, at some point soon, we’ll see software-based technology that can cope with service interruptions. The idea is that it will allow any organization to navigate its own best route through the increasingly complex world of dynamic data and telemetry.

The risk of wireless service interruption is arguably the biggest hurdle OEMs face. In testing scenarios, when gaps in high bandwidth/5G connectivity occur, technicians physically pull hard drives out of the car and insert them into a local platform for analysis. Not only is this crazy, but it’s also entirely unrealistic. 

In the real world, you should be able to drive around 24×7 without having to pull into a garage to have your systems checked. It’s all very well saying this is only temporary while we wait for 5G infrastructure to roll out. However, we won’t have 5G everywhere, and occasional interruptions to service are inevitable and part of life.

Instead, we believe automakers would be better off taking a step back to redefine the problem. With the right development partner by their side, it should be possible to engineer a solution that doesn’t have issues whenever there’s a connection outage. Ideally, it should hold I/O the moment it detects a service outage and reconnect automatically once normal service is resumed. We’ve experienced this trend in our daily discussions with OEMs and suppliers around the globe. We’re therefore confident that it’s simply a matter of time before OEMs choose to go this way.

In summary, today’s auto OEMs are moving toward a driverless, autonomous user experience with telemetry data at its heart. Products and services are continually developed and enhanced by ingesting large volumes of data on everything in the car,  from radar and video to engine management and brakes. The goal of an optimized, improved, and safe user experience can only be achieved once OEMs have mastered how to bridge the gap between cloud, hyperscalers, and on-premises systems around the world. 

Front-runners will be the ones who forget about universal 5G connectivity and focus on re-engineering software to withstand the inevitable communications bumps in the road. Armed with this secret sauce, they can locate themselves at the center of an interruption-proof ecosystem. This will allow OEMs to achieve their goals of revenue growth while driving true value for their customers.

I would love to know what you think of the idea of re-engineering software to cope with service interruptions. What other issues do OEMs need to address? What more should OEMs be doing to enhance the driver experience? 

Learn more about how the right solutions can enhance user experience in the auto industry.