Connected Cars: The State of Digital Transport

The automotive industry has been moving through a period of unprecedented transformation that is accelerating. With an expansion of digital environments to encompass personal and municipal vehicles, the digitisation of transport looks set to become one of the most transformative for business, society, and individuals.

And the COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, resulted in significant changes to urban digital transport systems. With fewer users of these services, the future will embrace a more dynamic and user-centred transport network.

Innovative technology must be at the heart of the UK’s public transport systems to help regain public trust in its safety and security, suggests new research into public opinion of intelligent cities. Despite 85% of the UK’s rail network now running, the research by Milestone Systems has revealed that almost four in 10 (39%) are now more reluctant to use public transport, and one in 10 (10%) would not use public transport at all due to worries about infection risk.

“Although technology advancements allow for new disruptive mobility solutions there are still some safety, environmental and regulatory concerns,” Dennis Kengo Oka, principal automotive security strategist at Synopsys, explained to Silicon UK. “There are interesting approaches where different means of transportation services including autonomous vehicles, e-scooters, e-cargo bikes etc. can be used in different degrees to help address these concerns. For example, certain smaller city centres could only allow e-scooter and e-cargo bike services, whereas certain suburbs could allow semi-autonomous or autonomous vehicle services.”

Dennis Kengo Oka, principal automotive security strategist at Synopsys.

In their report, Kantar concludes: “Preference towards healthier modes of transport, walking and cycling have seen a noticeable increase in popularity, particularly in Europe (+4.8% YoY).  In US cities, however, we saw only a slight increase in the use of healthy transport (0.6% YoY), mainly due to longer distances, car-centric infrastructures and lack of cycling infrastructures.”

Our vehicles are becoming digital environments that connect to networks supported via high-speed connectivity and the availability of masses of relevant data delivered via edge networks. The digital ecosystem that IoT is ushering in will define a new age of low-emission, intelligent and connect transport services. These new transport networks will embrace the on-demand model, leveraging the advantages that distributed cloud networks will offer.

Says Daniel Auger, IEEE senior member and Reader in Electrification, Automation and Control at Cranfield University: “Expect to see more automation technologies in the form of Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) on production cars, such as emergency braking systems, lane-keeping systems and so on. These are all necessary as development on of the pathway to increased automation, though I expect to see more in future.

Daniel Auger, IEEE senior member and Reader in Electrification, Automation and Control at Cranfield University.

“In the future, there will be high-end vehicles with significant autonomous capabilities for on-highway driving,” Auger continued. “At Cranfield, the work we have done as part of the HumanDrive project showed that an autonomous vehicle can, in fact, safely drive over a longer distance. Advanced driver assistance systems will become more common, possibly ubiquitous, and adaptive cruise control systems will continue evolution towards platooning (when a collection of vehicles travel together). There will likely be specialist vehicles for automated transit over defined and relatively structured routes.”

Vehicle manufacturers are also moving at speed toward a total EV future. These vehicles, though, will also crucially be intelligent spaces. The development of the digital chassis, advanced telematics, and the digital cockpit‘s ideas are all coming into focus.

Aaron Shields, executive strategy director of Experience EMEA at Landor & Fitch, says: Creating new top-hats for the same chassis enables much more specialisation and will no doubt create unforeseen levels of innovation. Companies like Lynk & Co and Arrival are opening up their hardware and software platforms for people and companies to innovate on. Lynk & Co shares its SDK to developer communities to create cool features like pairing multi-car sounds systems.

Aaron Shields, executive strategy director of Experience EMEA at Landor & Fitch.

“Whereas Arrival creates specialised top-hats for delivery companies and assembles them in local job-lot factories in small scale. Open platforms have real potential to create new B2B opportunities and challenge big OEMs in the same way micro-mills beat out big steel in many markets. Opening up B2C hacks enables enthusiasts to get limited edition vehicles or apps and tie into the pervasive drop culture. Watch this space.”

And as Roch Muraine, worldwide sales director for Transportation, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, explained to Silicon UK, security with these digital systems is of paramount importance: “Huge investments are being made into ensuring that the expansion of ITS (Intelligent Transport System) and digital transport does not result in cyber vulnerability.

“It is true that the introduction of more connected devices and IoT applications creates more pathways through which cybercriminals can access data, hack information and cause outages. However, it is key to remember that cybersecurity is a major concern for all connected technologies, the issue is not specific to transportation. To mitigate this risk, a new role is needed in the industry: the trusted third-party agent and we will start to see this role become more and more active.”

In addition, Kevin Curran, IEEE senior member and professor of cybersecurity at Ulster University, commented: “Modern vehicles have evolved to contain a complex network of as many as 100 independent computers, electronic control units (ECUs). ECUs perform a variety of functions such as measuring the oxygen present in exhaust fumes and adjusting the fuel or oxygen mixture improving efficiency and reducing pollutants. Gradually these ECUs have become integrated into nearly every aspect of a vehicle’s functioning, including steering, cruise control, air bag deployment and braking. Not only do these ECUs connect to each another but they can now connect to the Internet, making vehicle computers as vulnerable to the same digital dangers widely known among other networked devices – Trojans, viruses, denial-of-service attacks and more.”

Forget the wheel

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) shifts how transport is accessed across urban environments. One automotive supplier told Equinix responding to their report on MaaS: “The autonomous vehicle will have to perform many more functions beyond driving (e.g., correctly recognising passenger identities, using child locks for younger passengers, assisting passengers with limited mobility) and handle tons of safety-critical data in real time. The majority of data processing will be on the edge, while deep learning will be in the cloud.”

The convergence of 5G, IoT, and smartphones’ ubiquity deliver an ecosystem where MaaS can thrive and expand with new innovative services. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s Roch Muraine explained to Silicon UK: “The commute of the ‘new normal’ means MaaS has really come into its own, especially with regards to e-scooters and e-bikes, as people look for alternatives to public transport. MaaS enables companies to extract data from multiple sources and combine the information in one platform so that passengers have a simple way to book, use and pay for various modes of mobility. This kind of technology is expanding due to the changing needs of commuters and the opportunity to adopt pre-existing transportation assets which others have heavily invested in.”

How digitisation will impact transport will be profound and multifaceted. According to the 2020 Digital Auto Report from Strategy& (part of PwC), consumers do not expect fully automated cars before the early 2030s. Although shared mobility growth is slowing down, the relevance of seamless mobility remains high. EU and China lead the e-mobility transformation with expected new car BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) share of 17% and 19% by 2025.

“There is no doubt that we need to rethink our approach to charging infrastructure if we are to meet society’s demands for more flexible EV use,” says Alan Prior, VP, industry consultant, EuroNorth, Dassault Systèmes. “There are still too few charging stations, and there is still a lack of standardisation on physical charger connections, payment methods and charger capacities.

Alan Prior, VP, industry consultant, EuroNorth, Dassault Systèmes.

“One option is to enable EV owners to carry their own portable charger, allowing them to charge their car anywhere. This is why our 3DEXPERIENCE Labs start-up accelerator supports Sparkcharge, a start-up whose mission consists in creating portable chargers for EVs that can fit in the car and provides high speed charging at one mile every 60 seconds.”

Prior concludes: “Infrastructure design can be improved significantly through the use of virtual twins — digital computer models of entire cities. These sophisticated dynamic models of city infrastructure can be used to determine optimum locations for charging points during planning and can be used as live guides for drivers showing where the nearest stations are available for use.”

Deloitte also states: “We expect the future in-car UX to rely on a myriad of new technologies and connected services, pinging live information about the surrounding environment and traffic, assessing the driver’s health status and matching music to their mood. New business opportunities are opening up here, not only for car manufacturers, but also third-party software and service providers, assuming an open-platform approach.”

The road ahead

There is a clear movement away from traditional car ownership. Indeed, the report from RGA is concise with its conclusions: “MaaS has fundamentally shifted how we understand transportation. Today, mobility isn’t just about having one mode of transportation. It’s about having access to a variety of transportation options and the quality of those options available. Now more than ever, transportation companies must make space for people-first experiences that allow for a differentiated brand offering.”

Decarbonisation is also a critical component of how the digital vehicle space will develop. According to a report from EY, between 2025 and 2029, cars and vans will be required to emit 15% less CO2, rising to 31% less from 2030 compared with 2021 levels. By 2030, new vehicles must emit, on average, 37.5% less CO2, and new vans 31% less CO2. For every gram that every vehicle exceeds the emissions limits, a €95 fine will be imposed on automakers. To comply with the new regulations and avoid penalties, automakers are introducing a raft of new, compliant EV models. In 2021, more than 200 new models will come to market across various price points, making them available to a broader audience while enhancing competition between brands.

The Government Office for Science report concludes: “Transport is more than just travel. It connects people; it provides access to jobs, communities and goods; it delivers vital social services. Historically, individual transport modes have evolved at different rates and times, from the decline of horse-drawn carriages to the rise of the car, or the drop in canal freight to the expansion of the railways. This has led to a complex, fragmented approach to transport governance, one in which different modes and regions are considered in isolation.”

Synopsys’ Dennis Kengo Oka says: “Future digital transportation scenarios will further improve user experience. For example, by integrating different means of transportation services and new solutions, a user can go from A to B in the most efficient way using a combination of, e.g., autonomous shuttles, trains, ride-sharing, e-scooter etc. depending on the surroundings, traffic conditions, user preference etc. In addition, payment systems, booking systems, databases, traffic systems etc., will also be integrated to improve user experience.

Oka concluded: “To allow for such a digital transportation ecosystem, increased connectivity and data exchange is required between different systems. However, as more valuable data is generated and stored and more entry points to the systems are introduced, these solutions will become susceptible to cyberattacks. Therefore, it is crucial that the digital transportation ecosystem is developed and deployed as a “secure digital transportation ecosystem.”

Digital transport is an ecosystem that is rapidly coming into focus. The autonomous vehicle sector is on a massive upward trajectory. The digital chassis, connectivity via edge computing networks, and smart city digital environments deliver an immersive digital environment transport innovative businesses can take advantage of.

Silicon in Focus

Bryce Johnstone, Director Automotive Segment, Imagination Technologies.

Bryce Johnstone is responsible for relationships and marketing throughout the automotive value chain in support of defining IP requirements for the rapidly changing car market.  Previously at Imagination, he was in charge of Developer Ecosystem, largely working with mobile games companies worldwide.

Bryce Johnstone, Director Automotive Segment, Imagination Technologies.

Are we on the cusp of transformative changes with mobility across our cities?

“We are on the cusp of mass market deployment of self-driving and more advanced semi-autonomous vehicles both commercially and privately. We will see fewer privately owned, or manually driven vehicles in the coming years which will be supported by intelligent connected infrastructure like traffic lights and motorway signalling, leading to better traffic flow, safety, and reduced emissions.”

EVs have created digital chassis. When the foundation of our vehicles become digital, what does this mean for the development of transport as a service?

“With vehicles becoming more digitised and as we see the rise in fully autonomous vehicles, we will see a shift from the traditional vehicle ownership model to more flexible ones, especially in urban areas where it is particularly expensive to own, park and run a vehicle. Flexible ownership models will be based on different leasing plans, such as per month or even per mile. Manufacturers and dealerships that can embrace the flexibility demanded by modern customers will reap the benefits with vehicles that better support the MaaS model.”

How are connecting transport to the cloud and expanding edge networks creating a new digital mobility ecosystem?

“Increasing connectivity within the vehicle and from the car to the outside world creates a whole new ecosystem. For example, the ability to carry out higher data volume over the air (OTA) updates thanks to 4/5G and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity in vehicles, new operating systems, up-to-date maps, and the latest security features can be pushed down to vehicles subscribed to these features.

“This connectivity coupled with advances in edge computing, especially in artificial intelligence, means that you can have a network of vehicles that become smarter and safer every day. When in use, if an in-vehicle AI detects something it cannot identify, with OTA update whilst the vehicle is parked overnight, it can feedback this information into a datacentre. This new information can improve the data set used in machine learning algorithms which can then be downloaded back to the vehicle for better results. This constant incremental improvement will lay a foundation for even further rapid growth in the capabilities of self-driving vehicles.”

As the ‘commute’ has now changed, is the digitisation of transport creating MaaS (Mobility as a Service)?

“Digitisation will have more of an effect on the MaaS ecosystem depending on where it is deployed. For example, thanks to the pandemic and the move to more flexible working in urban hubs, traffic decreases daily. This, coupled with increased digitisation, will lead to more city commuters choosing to opt into autonomous ride-hailing services or flexible leasing options rather than getting on a tube or bus due to clearer roads and the stress being taken out of the drive to digital driver assistance features.

“In more rural environments, digitisation of vehicles will be no less impactful, but ownership models will more likely trend towards the traditional set monthly lease but with the added benefit to manufacturers and dealers of being able to provide optional extras digitally and continue to monetise the vehicle throughout its lifespan.”

For a fully electric vehicle ecosystem to exist, the power infrastructure across our cities will have to change radically. Is this a potential issue if we are to realise a complete digital mobility environment?

“As more people adopt EVs, there will be a need for increased charging capability and therefore upgraded power infrastructure. This will run in tandem with a reduction in urban electricity generation over time by introducing more efficient electronics from tills and shop fridges to office equipment and lighting, coupled with government legislation to make all properties more energy efficient. This will mean substantial net growth in the need for electricity at all times of day and night, meaning traditional power grid downtime will become much harder to find.

“The power infrastructure is a challenge and one that requires robust investment from both government and private industry to realise. If governments want to increase the adoption of zero emissions vehicle, they need to ensure people can charge them. One of the biggest barriers to EVs currently in the lack of availability of charging.”

Considering security. Do we have the tools and network protection to ensure digital transport (personal and municipal) can’t be hacked?

“The security environment around tech and in the cyber domain is constantly evolving. This arms race of hacker vs security experts needs constant attention, which means digital vehicles will need comprehensive through-life support.

“The best software and security experts are needed to ensure protection against the latest threats, so a robust timeline of ongoing investment from automakers mean that MaaS and service contracts are going to become the norm. With the need for security in a self-driving environment the traditional view of a vehicle rolling off the production line and being “finished” will not suffice, from here, it will be a case of constant OTA updates to keep drivers safe from emerging threats.”


Photo by Tim Samuel from Pexels

David Howell

Dave Howell is a freelance journalist and writer. His work has appeared across the national press and in industry-leading magazines and websites. He specialises in technology and business. Read more about Dave on his website: Nexus Publishing. https://www.nexuspublishing.co.uk.

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