Top Considerations on the Road to Connected Vehicles

Enterprise IT faces a learning curve and must avoid hype when evaluating connected vehicle tech opportunities, such as the use of 5G and private wireless networks.

5 Min Read
Top Considerations on the Road to Connected Vehicles
(Photo by Rhys Moult on Unsplash)

Enterprises operating fleets of trucks, vans, and cars are looking to create highly connected, smart vehicles using emerging technologies. Creating a strategy, however, is becoming tougher still as the near-term and long-term options vie for their attention today.

Learn first, then evaluate

What a long strange trip it has been! You can trace the advent of the connected car back to the launch of OnStar’s satellite-based interactive in-vehicle services in 1996. Now, 25 years later, IT managers with vehicle fleets have more tech-fueled options than ever to consider. Telematics, designed primarily for trucks, track back farther, to 1974.

The use of connected services such as voice assistants, artificial intelligence (AI), and sensor-loaded vehicle parts, are all forecasted to rise. Enterprise IT managers have much to address on the road to the wide use of smarter, connected, vehicle fleets. And that’s without the safety and security issues that come with driverless and unmanned vehicles.

Understand the big-picture impacts

The extended auto industry alone touches nearly every facet of the American economy. It represents nearly $2 trillion in revenues—more than 10 percent of US gross domestic product (GDP), according to recent research from Deloitte Insights. It’s estimated that the commercial trucking industry adds another $700 billion to that figure. "The future of mobility could affect nearly everyone who commutes to and from a job and nearly every company's supply chain."

Tech is also playing a starring role in the eventual plan for driverless and unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAV), which are seen by some as the answer to the worsening U.S. truck driver shortage and as the future of freight for enterprises, and transportation for consumers.

Start with the connected vehicle ecosystem

IT managers must first gain an understanding at the macro level of what types of companies will likely define the future of mobility. “Content providers, in-vehicle service providers, data, and analytics companies, advertisers, entertainment equipment providers, and social media companies—will likely clamor to make the in-transit experience whatever we want it to be: relaxing, productive, or entertaining,” predicts Deloitte Insights in recent research and analysis. The company notes that many of the capabilities in this space already exist but could be vastly expanded to become even more immersive and interactive.

5G: Ford’s better idea?

IT managers need to consider the impact of the accelerating carrier deployment of superfast 5G wireless services. For some time now, vehicles have used Wi-Fi wireless technology for much of connectivity services. And while driving what’s essentially a Wi-Fi hotspot has helped drive vehicle wireless use for years, the emergence of super-fast LTE/5G has emerged as an alternative.

Last July, Ford Motor Co. announced it would test vehicles using its own LTE/5G network.

Ford only says it wants to gain experience "with installation and operation of a private cellular network for connected vehicle services." More importantly, the use of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band shows Ford is considering the use of a private network using cellular technology in licensed spectrum as an alternative to Wi-Fi.

In what could be the shape of things to come for auto and truck makers, Ford has taken a BYON (build your own network) approach in constructing its own LTE/5G network to test connected cars in a private environment – a parking lot to be specific. Ford’s network will use the CBRS band and gear from wireless infrastructure vendors Ericsson, Juniper, and Dell.

Closely consider today’s technology advancements

Technology-driven features and functionalities are forever redefining how IT managers advance management and monitoring their car and truck fleet assets. Telematics for truck freight carrying fleets debuted in 1974, nearly 20 years before OnStar began delivering interactive communications services for cars in 1996.

Telematics today enable IT managers to remotely monitor and manager vehicles, initially using GPS tracking; accessing on-board navigation systems that provide drivers the most efficient route to their destination using real-time traffic, weather and fueling option data; and using sensors networks to monitor the health of truck components to avoid super-costly slowdowns and breakdowns.

Trucking + AI + Machine Learning

International truck manufacturer Volvo is using advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning to take vehicle monitoring to the next level today.

The truck maker recently launched Volvo Connect, a module that provides real-time remote monitoring of vehicle systems and components and the ability to manage software updates at the customer's convenience.

Fleet owners can keep a close eye on crucial components using real-time monitoring. "Using AI, machine learning, and algorithms to analyze data, we can predict potential issues much more accurately and frequently than we could before," said Hillevi Rafidashti, commercial services manager for Volvo Trucks.

Volvo has also made improvements to what it calls "connected body services that provide truck drivers a real-time view of vehicle body and equipment status on its in-cab display, according to the company. They can get the real-time status of the truck body or equipment in the side display.

What’s next?

When it comes to car and truck fleets, IT managers need to focus on the present and the near future. The futuristic talk from 2016-17 about driverless and unmanned vehicles is still largely that, futuristic. We’re at the pilot stage now with UPS at the forefront. These concepts offer solutions to ongoing issues, such as the worsening truck driver shortage. These ambitious initiatives still require extensive testing and many billions in investments, most for addressing vehicle security and safety issues.

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About the Author(s)

Bob Wallace, Featured Writer

A veteran business and technology journalist, Bob Wallace has covered networking, telecom, and video strategies for global media outlets such as International Data Group and United Business Media. He has specialized in identifying and analyzing trends in enterprise and service provider use of enabling technologies. Most recently, Bob has focused on developments at the intersection of technology and sports. A native of Massachusetts, he lives in Ashland and can be reached at[email protected]or @fastforwardbob

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