Curves Ahead: Auto Industry Faces Connected Car Challenges

Rich Lindow

For three days in the second week of April, thought leaders and engineers from all over the world converged in Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan, to shape the future of the automotive world.

Packed with technical sessions, thought leadership panels, and a show floor full of companies displaying their latest technologies, this event brought together the brightest minds to try and solve the biggest challenges in the auto industry.

What are some of the greatest challenges the auto industry is facing in the era of the connected car?


Hidden in plain sight were representatives from forward-thinking companies who are desperate for talent, and who are recruiting in non-traditional ways. As the disruption in the automotive industry continues, automakers are developing new lines of business.

From smart city platforms and bike sharing to vehicle subscriptions and autonomous last mile delivery, the talent needed to lead and develop these lines of business is not something traditionally found inside an automaker. The changing workforce – a disruption of its own – has a responsibility to make these disruptive ideas a reality.

Companies already strapped for talent are faced with significant challenges along the way.

Big data, big problem

As complexity increases in vehicles, especially autonomous vehicles, the amount of data available is mind-blowing. Recently BMW stated that a single vehicle on their autonomous platform creates 16–40 Terabytes of data per day!

For reference, 1 Terabyte of data equates to 250 million pages printed both sides, over 10 miles high! Engineers must now determine how much of that data is critical (needing to be available on board the vehicle) and how much of it can be offloaded to the cloud.

5G: The next generation

Is 5G the answer to the growing data demands of the industry? According to Qualcomm, 5G specific automotive applications will be market ready in 2019. Automakers plan to integrate this technology in 2021–2 years faster than their transition from 3G to 4G.

This is promising, but unique challenges exist. Engineers must develop ways to install broadband modems into the ceiling of a vehicle that could be subjected to -20 degrees in a Michigan winter, or 120 degrees in the desert of Arizona.

5G data may be the answer, but the cost of transmitting this data is significant. This goes against the grain of traditional automotive, built on cost saving. To help overcome these obstacles, the 5G Automotive Associate (5GAA) was created in 2016. 5GAA is global, cross-industry organization of companies from the automotive, technology, and telecommunications industries, all working together to develop end-to-end solutions for future mobility and transportation services.

The Facebook effect

As SAE WCX18 wrapped up, Mark Zuckerburg sat in front of Congress fielding questions on cybersecurity and data privacy. These same challenges are staring the automotive industry in the face.

Large amounts of data are being produced by drivers every day. From dongles installed in a vehicle for insurance purposes to cities monitoring traffic patterns, personal information is being collected at a rate unlike any in history. But who owns this data? How secure is this data? How will the automotive industry use this data in the future?

The connected vehicle challenge

Despite the challenges noted above; one automotive startup has a plan. The first-ever Connected Vehicle Challenge on the Connect2Car Campus debuted in Detroit, bringing together finalists from all over the world to impress judges with their creative ideas around the future of mobility. Hundreds of universities, individuals, and small companies submitted ideas and the top five were given 20 minutes to convince a panel of automotive experts they should take home the $10,000 first prize.

Israeli startup Safemode ( took home first prize with their idea to develop risk scores for every driver using Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. These driver specific profiles would allow autonomous vehicles to make risk-based decisions when interacting with the mixed human and autonomous vehicle ecosystem.

Secure platforms drive the future

With new business models presenting themselves nearly every quarter, automotive companies are creating entire departments reporting to the highest level to monetize these opportunities. These opportunities will only be successful if data quality and security are at the forefront. This challenges the very fabric of how automotive manufactures views their product.

The architecture of an automobile has never been based on security. As the industry changes its mindset to adopt security first, engineers will shape the way you and I interact with the world.

Welcome to disruption.

What do you consider the biggest threat or opportunity in regards to connected vehicles? Let me know by commenting or tweeting: @Rich_Lindow.

This post first appeared on SAP Innovation Spotlight, and is republished here with permission.