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Autonomous Vehicles and Data as the Fuel of the Future

AUTOMOTIVE / 04.11.19 / Charles Eagan
Top view of self-driving SUV on the road with sensing graphic pattern retouched. night traffic.  3D rendering image.

Yesterday at SAE World Congress in Detroit, I talked about how data is quickly becoming the new “fuel” for the automotive industry.

Forward looking automakers today envision a future in which they have the ability to combine and analyze various pieces of information from different vehicle systems to reveal things like driving habits, frequently visited locations, tastes in music and numerous other insights into consumer behavior.  For the consumer on the other hand, assuming they are open to it, there are a plethora of benefits that can come from providing ready-made access to their data. From being alerted to potential maintenance issues via remote vehicle diagnostic monitoring to automated calling for emergency breakdowns or targeted offers and infotainment content designed to enhance the overall travel experience, there are no shortage data-enabled use cases that focus on providing drivers and passengers new features and services.

However, as a 2017 McKinsey & Company Car Data Monetization Survey notes, “No matter which features car data can make possible, capturing value from them is not feasible if consumers do not see the benefit” and perhaps most importantly, “customers must trust that the data they share will be held and used responsibly.”

As BlackBerry’s CEO and Executive Chairman, John Chen said in a blog post entitled We Need To Set The Bar Higher On Privacy, “The inevitable implications of a data-driven economy are right in front of us and we now stand before a moral, ethical and public policy crossroads… How we collectively decide what the rules of the game for this new data-driven economy is, I would argue, one of the most important issues facing global policymakers today.”

BlackBerry is ideally positioned to facilitate such a trusted relationship between the OEM and the customer, not only because our QNX technology powers more than 120 million cars on the road today, but because we have a strong reputation for efficient, reliable and secure software. Within the auto sector, BlackBerry is trusted by automakers and Tier 1s around the world to protect hardware, software, applications, and end-to-end systems from cyberattacks.

In the near future, drivers might buy or rent software-powered services for the weekend, such as enhanced navigation capabilities, blind spot detection or even engine management and suspension software to prep their high-performance car for a racetrack or road trip. Car makers will receive so much data from their vehicles out in the field in real-time that they will be able to improve their future models, right down to what buttons to swap out of the dashboard because no one uses them. It may be hard to believe but today, manufacturers know little about their vehicles once they’ve left the dealership. With connected vehicles, data flows back to automakers, enabling software updates in real time.

Putting Data to Work

In the future, data from sensor-packed and connected vehicles could even be packaged and shared with cities. Data showing a lot of braking, for instance, on a cold morning may alert city officials to a dangerous patch of black ice that requires salt.

In all ways, automakers will look to leverage the data that vehicles produce. And that amount of data is growing exponentially as software and electronics become the key differentiators among like classes of cars. Lux Research says that by 2030, electronics and software will account for 50% of car costs, up from about 30% today while the software opportunity in autonomous cars will grow from less than one billion to $25 billion.

Modern luxury cars are already marvels of software and electronic engineering, containing on average more than 100 million lines of code and six to eight operating systems. Indeed, just one connected car will generate more revenue than ten conventional ones. Additionally, eight in ten auto industry executives say data will fuel future automotive business models and 83% believe they will make money off that data. With data a highly sought-after commodity, and many big tech companies building their business models on monetizing data, it’s important to note that at BlackBerry, it’s our sworn principle and mission to protect data, not to exploit it. We simply move it, and of course do so securely, as opposed to use it or profit off of it.

“Companies should protect the data they manage, not exploit it. Every individual should own their own data. It should be yours, and yours only. Data protection and security should be paramount. Privacy should be embedded by design in the development of products and services.” -  John Chen, Executive Chairman and CEO, BlackBerry

Cybersecurity Risks Mount

Despite the exciting opportunities they present, connected cars increase cybersecurity risks and that challenge must be met for autonomous vehicles to reach their full potential.

Attack surfaces are constantly being added to vehicles via elements such as sensors, automated steering wheels, brakes, accelerators, infotainment systems, mobile apps and wireless key fobs. Like any other product or ecosystem, as the number of connected ‘things’ grows within a vehicle, so too does the attack surface and the threat potential.  In recent years, nearly every OEM has experienced some sort of hack, driving home the reality that security cannot be an afterthought or bolted on. It has to be baked into vehicles and their components at every stage of the process. That means securing the supply chain, using only trusted components, in field monitoring and responding quickly to issues.

A Safe and Trusted Partner

BlackBerry’s QNX software has been deployed and trusted by thousands of companies in hundreds of millions of devices in the world’s most mission-critical systems.

Today, as the electronic architecture of the vehicle evolves from being hardware-driven to software-defined, BlackBerry is quickly establishing itself as the premiere foundational software platform provider for the next generation car of the future. While it is impossible to predict how quickly connected and autonomous vehicles will be adopted en masse by the general public, there is no doubt that each and every one of them will drive and make decisions based on rich data – the new fuel of the future car. BlackBerry will be there every step of the way to help process that data efficiently and keep it secure and trusted, delivering a better, safer driving experience for all.

Charles Eagan

About Charles Eagan

Appointed in June 2018, Charles Eagan is the Chief Technology Officer for BlackBerry. In this role, Charles is responsible for the advancement of new technologies, driving innovation within emerging markets and advancing security capabilities that leverage AI and Machine Learning. He is also responsible for technology partnerships and overseeing the standardization and integration of all company products with an emphasis on helping drive BlackBerry’s Internet of Things platform.