CEO Interviews

Tomorrow’s car will run on big data

Pascal Brier_Directeur général adjoint en charge de la stratégie de l'i (002) 2Is big data set to be your next car’s engine? What are the challenges carmakers face, given the exponential growth in data generated by connected cars? What will the car of the future look like? Pascal Brier, Vice President of Altran, offers a response.

Where do the data come from?

Pascal Brier says there are four reasons why vehicle data are more and more abundant and why the subject is becoming so important in the automotive sector. The first reason is the shift from thermal to electric engines; the second is the development of autonomous cars. “It started with ‘footless’ cruise control, followed by the ‘handless’ ability to drive certain motorway portions without holding the wheel. ‘Eyeless’ is the next step, and ultimately, the Google Car, the Daimler F015 Luxury of Motion and other inventions will bring us closer to ‘mindless’ driving, a completely autonomous experience. It is estimated that by 2020, 30% of cars coming off the assembly line will have some autonomous features.” The autonomous car is also increasingly a connected car. “Vehicle sensors can generate a huge amount of information, from road and weather reports to vehicle condition and driver behaviour.” Lastly, production methods will be revolutionised. “Companies such as Tesla are paving the way for Industry 4.0, which will be cloud-connected and will use robotics and the latest 3D-printing technologies.”

Data for the carmaker, the car and the driver

Yes, there’s a lot more data, but what purpose does it all serve? According to Pascal Brier, information deriving from big data will help carmakers, improve cars and benefit drivers. Carmakers will be able to recall products more easily, for example. “A dashboard notification system has already been used to recall 60 million vehicles in the United States, saving carmakers millions of dollars in communication costs. Secondly, big data will help improve the way each automotive part is used. The engine, the tyres and the brake linings are all analysed in real time so they can be replaced or optimised in the vehicle repair garage and the Industry 4.0 plant notified. Lastly, the driver gets more security and an enhanced driving experience: information on road and vehicle condition, real-time traffic information, etc. “Before, the data were used only to analyse the past. Now, with analysis, prediction and prevention, we can find numerous solutions for improving the entire automotive industry!”

Data ownership remains a thorny question, however. “As in every industry impacted by big data, the question of data ownership is complex and far from settled. Battles are being waged, for example between Google and Waze users, who want to be remunerated for the data they communicate. Other topics still need to be clarified, such as potential adjustments to insurance contracts linked to the driving behaviour communicated with the vehicle data.”

The 21st century car will be a smartphone on wheels

“The 21st century car is becoming a service,” says Pascal Brier. With their smartphones, drivers are ultra-connected and don’t want to be cut off from the outside world when they get into their cars.“ The big data revolution is radically changing the carmaker’s role. There will be those who adapt and innovate and those who remain on the side of the road.” According to Pascal Brier, the future “smartphone on wheels” will enable carmakers to be in permanent contact with drivers and their passengers. “Soon we’ll update our car at the dealership just as we update an application on our smartphone. This will offer marketing departments innumerable opportunities for re-inventing their services and satisfy users’ evolving needs.

The automotive sector, which has long operated in private mode, must now adopt the standard cloud modes used by smartphones. Carmakers such as Ford and Toyota are interested in Microsoft’s platform, while others are looking at Android or Google. To help its customers process their data, Altran has developed its own IoT platform, called VueForge. This embedded software brings intelligence to the car by collecting, transporting and transforming data into information and then into services. Pascal Brier is enthusiastic about it: “It’s a fully-fledged data distribution plant.” To beef up its array of VueForge services, Altran has also acquired Tessella, a UK-based analytics and data science consulting firm. The majority of its more than 220 employees are data scientists who can create predictive algorithms from raw data. “The added value of tomorrow’s carmakers will not be in their powerful engines or their sporty wheels but in the number of services they can deliver. We are supporting them in that transformation.”

Big data is only just revving its engines.…