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Making Sense of the EV Data Firehose

AUTOMOTIVE / 07.01.21 / John Wall

Reliance on a single detection technology – optical cameras, lidar, radar, or ultrasonic sensors – makes for vehicles with blind spots. The automotive industry is zeroing in on sensor fusion as the best option for managing the complexity and reliability of autonomous vehicles. Sensor fusion is especially important in electric vehicles (EVs) since every EV maker is currently building their vehicles with at least advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) technology if not a roadmap to full autonomy.

What exactly is sensor fusion? A human driver uses their ears to hear a siren approaching and their eyes to see whether they are in its path. This combination of sight and sound is done inside our brain, letting us anticipate and quickly react to driving situations. Autonomous vehicles have 'eyes' and 'ears' too. They collect an enormous amount of sensor data from cameras, lidar, radar, gyroscopes, GPS location, and accelerometers to ‘see’ the world around them.

But gathering data by itself isn’t the biggest challenge. Just as the human driver needs to understand how to best use each sense, the autonomous vehicle must merge and analyze the multiple data streams from these diverse and disparate sensors to create a single, accurate view of their environment. This is called sensor fusion.

Sensor Fusion Challenges
Each optical, lidar, and radar sensor delivers medium- to high-resolution 2D images many multiple times per second, delivering a constant stream of real-time data. Accessing the huge datasets that these sensors produce, as well as collecting and managing them, requires a specialized skillset to develop the underlying software. This is particularly true when dealing with safety-critical subsystems.

To help automakers address these data challenges, BlackBerry QNX created the QNX® Platform for ADAS.

The QNX Platform for ADAS provides automakers and automotive suppliers with a solid base for constructing ADAS and autonomous driving software. As a distributed and hardware-accelerated platform that manages all the vehicle’s sensor data, it allows an autonomous system to understand the surrounding environment and make real-time decisions that control the vehicle’s steering, throttle, and brakes. Due to its modular and hardware-agnostic design, the QNX Platform for ADAS also enables automakers to rapidly iterate designs, something that’s especially important given the pace of electric vehicle innovation.

Using Data Beyond Autonomy
Sensor data isn’t the only data that’s critical for the development of successful EVs. A vehicle also generates data about how it’s used and where it’s driven. Understanding those interaction patterns can be used to personalize the vehicle experience and develop strong customer relationships.

This is where a scalable, cloud-connected software platform comes in – in other words, BlackBerry IVY™.

With BlackBerry IVY, EV makers can leverage vehicle data to deliver new features, functionality, and experiences to customers over the lifetime of their vehicles. These could include:

  • Prolonging the ‘feeling of delight’ after a car purchase with dynamically revealed features based on usage patterns
  • Creating optimization strategies for battery lifespan and travel distance based on driving habits
  • Providing value to the car sharing market by examining data on trip destinations and durations and providing shared-car owners with heat maps of popular car-sharing zones

But EV makers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this data. To help plan for the booming growth in EV infrastructure, charging companies could use time-stamped driving data, which shows EV density around popular locations and routes, to identify optimal places to build charging stations.

Keeping Data Safe
To safeguard the vehicle-cloud connection so that all this data can be safely and privately transferred, BlackBerry provides another service: Certicom® by BlackBerry. The Certicom portfolio provides elliptical encryption, public key infrastructure (PKI), asset management systems, code signing, certificate authority services, and more. It can be used to secure software in the vehicle, in the OEM cloud back-end – and even on the manufacturing line. Most importantly perhaps, it can be used to encrypt the BlackBerry IVY connection between cloud and car, ensuring the customer’s private data is not used for unauthorized purposes.

Driving Modern Mobility
BlackBerry’s ability to collect, manage, process, and secure huge amounts of real-time data is central to developing vehicles in the age of modern mobility, whether they are self-driving, autonomous, or connected. But as we explain in our whitepaper, it’s just one of the many reasons that 23 of the top 25 EV OEMs choose BlackBerry® and BlackBerry® QNX® technologies.

John Wall

About John Wall

Senior Vice-President at BlackBerry and head of QNX.

John is responsible for the planning, design, and development of QNX Software Systems (embedded software) and Certicom (cryptography applications).

John has been an integral member of the BlackBerry QNX team since 1993. He has held a variety of roles within the organization, including Vice President of Engineering and Services. He holds a Bachelor’s of Engineering, in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Carleton University in Ottawa.