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Connected vehicles: does new data mean new usages?

For the past few years, with the booming of digital technologies, all personal vehicles have been manufactured and sold with an embedded wireless Internet connection. This connection has become a key channel to collect real-time data on the automotive fleet, and also to create a knowledge and a vision of the road traffic.

One connected vehicle, multiform connectivity

When we speak about connected vehicles, we often relate it to usages associated to our mobile phone such as Bluetooth to listen to our favorite music or to use a GPS navigation system. However, even if a connected vehicle needs a wireless connection and digital applications to work properly, its ability to communicate goes beyond these driver and passenger-oriented purposes.

The vehicle is communicating depending on the protocols or technologies used with either short or long range, bidirectional or not, high or low speed communications. This means a multiform connectivity for various usages:

  • Telematics: it remotely tracks the vehicle’s activity in real-time such as its location, the driver behavior, the vehicle general diagnosis (engine, tires pressure, etc.).

  • V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle): it refers to the short-ranged communications between two vehicles (around 300 meters). The vehicles transfer data (such as their location and speed) to those around them equipped with the same communication technology or standard. For example, it can be used to anticipate a traffic jam or prevent a car accident: a notification will be sent to the following vehicle to make it slow down. It can also detect surrounding elements on a 360°-perimeter to locate blind spots and lane changes.

  • V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure): this type of connectivity enables the vehicle to communicate with road infrastructures for a better traffic management on a given itinerary, on the basis of a trigger (specific event such as a car accident) or on the basis of planned events (such as a planned roadwork ahead of the route).

  • V2N (vehicle-to-network): this technology enables to transfer the vehicle data to a specific network so the driver is able to access information on the state of the traffic on its route for example.

  • B2V (brain-to-vehicle): carried by Nissan, the ambition of this technology is to predict the driver behavior to make the driving experience more comfortable and personalized. For example, the device could predict that the driver is about to turn the wheel and start the movement itself beforehand.

Making use of connected vehicle data to optimize the vehicle operations

For cars manufacturers, integrating OEM connected devices in their cars enables the access to their cars fleet data. This is obviously preceded by the authorization from the car’s owner to use their data, according to the GDPR.

The connected vehicles then become a strategical data source for the manufacturer to improve their future models’ efficiency but also their maintenance and revision process. A vehicle capable of generating self-diagnosing data will be less likely to break down as a notification would have been sent to the driver to remind that the vehicle needs to go for maintenance, but also to the maintenance dealers’ network to schedule an appointment. The analysis of historical data is also a door-opener for a process of continuous vehciles performance improvement or the design of new vehicle models. The connectivity capacities will also be enhanced with the reliability and speed offered by 5G. With its high-speed (100 times faster than the 4G) and its low latency,embedded wireless devices will communicate a larger amount of information in a shorter time. This is paving the way for new real-time even more accurate and personalized applications.

And what about data security?

How can cybersecurity be ensured at the proper level for connected vehicles? In 2023, predictions are forecasting 775 million of private connected vehicles worldwide, and that is without professional vehicles such as private chauffeur-cars, delivery drones and trucks. The last generations of connected vehicles have 20 to 30 million of code lines (almost 100 million for premium vehicles) and up to 60 electronical command units (ECU) controlling, for example, the brakes or the engine. The in-vehicle wireless access points are multiplying, whether it is the mobile phone, the radio, the V2X communication system or even the Bluetooth. These elements are ever more exposed to cyber-attacks and their consequences are increasing as more responsibilities are granted to vehicles to replace the human gesture: to support this phenomenon, two American researchers in IT security, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, hacked a Jeep Cherokee and took control of its functions such as the brake, which forced the manufacturer to update the system for the whole vehicle range.

As a car aims to bring the passenger safely from one place to another, how can we guarantee its safety? And what about the responsibility of a car accident provoked by a cyber-attack? The French Commission on Information Technology and Liberties advises the use of encrypted code for each vehicle (and not each vehicle model). It is also important to remind that the driver must be careful when plugging in an external device or when jailbreaking it. In short, the incoming of more connected vehicles on the roads bring more topics to tackle with caution.

Making use of connected vehicle data to enhance traffic management

As connected vehicles are rising, they are becoming new data sources to monitor and understand road traffic: this is called floating car data (FCD). There are many FCD suppliers on the market such as Here, TomTom, Inrix or newcomers such as, Wejo and Otonomo. The collected data is anonymized and sent to servers to be used by road operators, cities, and territories or even traffic engineering companies. The raw data is then processed with advances algorithms (clustering, map matching, etc.) to make it easier to understand and interpret.

The growth of connected vehicles on the road is a real asset to measure traffic flows and level of services. Indeed, FCD is a cost-effective alternative (or a complement, according to the physical phenomena to monitor) to traditional sensors integrated or implemented along the infrastructure (counting loops, cameras, radars etc.) requiring major investments for their installation and operations. With FCD, it is possible to collect vehicles’ location information, individual speed and heading at a very high sampling rate. Processing that raw data enables to generate information on the traffic flows on a given road section or a given itinerary, including travel time and speed.

The current mass of data and the historical depth available today (up to 5 years depending of data provider) is paving the way to advanced analytics based on data science and AI technologies for a smart vision of traffic conditions and for even more accurate and robust traffic or travel times predictions.

As the connected cars fleet is expanding, the coverage of the road network with FCD data is reaching a quasi-exhaustive level, something that could not be considered with traditional sensors due to their cost of deployment. All mobility players (car manufacturers, OEMs, data providers, road operators, traffic engineers) have an interest in working efficiently and hand in hand to get optimal value from mobility data. The main challenge for all players remains to be aligned with the collective interest of transitioning towards a more virtuous, more environmentally friendly and more carbon-free mobility.

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