Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The end of the ICE age


Electric powertrains are rising fast as an alternative to the internal combustion engines (ICE), marking the end of traditional fossil fuel vehicles. What else is driving the ICE age to the end?

The world is witnessing the final days of the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) as the ubiquitous automobile becomes a part of the ecosystem of the Internet of Everything (IoE). The powertrain of the ICE has lasted almost a century-and-a-half since 1872 when the American inventor George Brayton came out with the first commercial liquid-fueled internal combustion engine. In 1876, Nicolaus Otto, working with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, patented the compressed charge, four-stroke cycle engine.

It is projected that the global automotive industry will grow to just under $9 trillion by 2030 according to Statista. New vehicle sales will account for about 38% of this value. Automotive technology will change considerably in the next decade. One in five new car sales globally are expected to be battery electric vehicles, and millions of new self-driving cars will be added to the world’s fleet.

One of the biggest transformations of a global industry is taking place right now that’s having a domino effect on a range of industries from financial services to entertainment, and of course, data science as automobiles become computers on wheels. The automotive value chain will be altered beyond recognition, and a flood of new services has started to emerge. We will see the convergence of information technology and automotive to create a new value proposition. The automobile will become a part of the entire ecosystem of the Internet of Everything (IoE). The new automotive value chain from hardware, software, connectivity, and integration of all these.

Automobiles today contain around 125 million lines of code compared to an F-22 fighter jet’s two million, a Boeing 787’s 15 million, and Facebook’s 62 million.

With the shift to electric, computing has become the heart of the vehicle, with a central processor managing the battery, running the electric motors, brakes, lights and other critical systems as well as additional features such as entertainment or heating in the seats. Just like a gas-powered car should be serviced regularly, a modern electric vehicle may receive software updates to improve safety and performance, offer new in-car services, or unlock sources of revenue for the manufacturer.

Automobiles today contain around 125 million lines of code compared to an F-22 fighter jet’s two million, a Boeing 787’s 15 million, and Facebook’s 62 million. This is impressive when you consider that these vehicles have basic, standard Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that allow them to autonomously parallel park and maintain safe speeds while on cruise control. What’s even more impressive is the expectation that fully autonomous vehicles will have somewhere between 300-500 million lines of code. This fact alone means that new cars will likely contain the most sophisticated software systems. It spells some clear writing on the wall: what sets cars apart will no longer be the engine’s number of cylinders. 

While the hardware of an automobile will be a complex system embedded with sensors, screens, buttons, antennas (cellular & Bluetooth) and computing components, the software will include an organized system for the collection of computer data and instructions intended to assist with the creation, collection, monitoring, and/or the analysis of vehicle and/or transportation data. Examples include systems related to general computing and industrial operating systems software, user-facing interfaces and screen mirroring software (e.g., Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), application software dedicated to a specific domain (e.g., navigation and OTT audio/video), and life-cycle management software for updates and system validation.

As the new generation automobile will be a connected device it will have to seamlessly connect with other vehicles, traffic instruction systems, and transportation infrastructure to be able to operate smoothly in a smart environment. Connectivity includes the wireless means through which data is passed and analyzed across different components to enable the execution of digital automotive and/or transportation products, services, and capabilities.

Connectivity can be established through embedded equipment in the vehicle, retrofitted, or established by leveraging a tethered device (e.g., a smartphone). Examples of connectivity methods include cellular (e.g., 3G, 4G, and 5G), close-range wireless (e.g., NFC, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth), intervehicle or V2X (vehicle-to-everything) communications or cellular V2X [C-V2X]), GPS, and satellite technologies.

Integration services will include the functional coupling of physical and virtual components, systems, and/or subsystems. These will help enable and optimize the development and delivery of digital and digital services. This integration often includes providing the capabilities and expertise to support the bridging of “old” and “new” platforms, technologies, and frameworks to support a bridged feature evolution.

Like any connected device, the security of the software systems will become extremely critical to prevent hacking. Security and privacy services must ensure that all aspects of vehicle systems and data remain trusted, utilized, and operated as initially designed (and conform to existing and emerging regulations). This includes capabilities to secure embedded or retrofitted physical hardware interfaces, monitoring software, protecting data at rest and in transit, and certifying compliance for all data protection and personally identifiable information (PII) regulations and standards.

Digital automotive and transportation products and services, which leverage data as a basis to deliver value, provide a broad attack vector for nefarious actors and must be designed, developed, tested, validated, and monitored to ensure that they cannot be exploited, hacked, or utilized for unintended purposes.

Automobiles of the future will be guided by machine learning technologies as they will constantly become smarter as they communicate with other vehicles and smart city infrastructure.

Connected vehicles are expected to deliver a deluge of data from the increased adoption of high-speed data-embedded connectivity in vehicles, onboard sensors, migration of analogue vehicle systems to digital (and “fly by wire”) control, and consumer demand for enhanced and immersive experiences. This will require the technologies, expertise, and innovation from data management vendors, typically coming from the world of cloud, database, integration, and marketplace services to help manage vehicle, edge, and cloud data. They will also perform data normalization, labelling, compliance, distribution, third-party contracting, and monetization functions.

Automobiles of the future will be guided by machine learning technologies as they will constantly become smarter as they communicate with other vehicles and smart city infrastructure. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies will be applied for the development of systems and tools that leverage data models to improve on their own without constant supervision or solely relying on preplanned algorithms. AI and machine learning are being applied to multiple operational and support domains including AV driving functions, traffic and pedestrian monitoring, predictive maintenance, and vehicle condition evaluation.

This automotive transformation will also have a significant impact on financial services like automobile insurance for instance. Insurance services facilitate the financial protection of all that the vehicle may touch or interact with, including providing protection from damage, injury, and liability expenses. This includes potentially supporting the vehicle’s components, software, fleet provider, passengers, drivers, roadside infrastructure, and even pedestrians.

As more and more vehicles become connected, new insurance services and business models are emerging, including data-driven usage-based insurance (UBI), which uses data to align driving behaviour and mileage with insurance premiums. Further, with the advent of AVs, there is the potential for the manufacturer or service provider to be the insured party as the industry looks to product liability insurance versus the driver-obligated liability and insurance model we generally see today.

As vehicles become Big Data generators and AI is used to analyze this data, remote diagnostic applications, and services to monitor the vehicle’s mechanical, electrical, software systems, and components to ensure satisfactory performance and/or compliance will begin to evolve. When a fault, abnormality, or non-compliance is detected, these services will trigger an alert to the vehicle operator, owner, fleet management provider service centre, and/or the vehicle manufacturer.

Increasingly, vendors and manufacturers are enabling remote processes and capabilities to remedy these alerts through software and firmware over-the-air updates. The use of OTA updates, when successfully implemented, can help reduce the time and impact to resolve identified issues, deliver new features, and deliver an increased level of customer satisfaction and value.

Infotainment will become an important element of the vehicle experience. As autonomous vehicles will not require constant attention from the driver, applications and services providing entertainment and information to the vehicle’s driver and/or passengers will add to the experience. Infotainment digital services can be delivered through an in-vehicle embedded device or a mounted hardware device, as well as through the handheld devices brought into the vehicle by the passenger. Examples of infotainment digital services include streaming radio, music, and videos; travel and location information (e.g., dining, traffic, fuel, and city information); and immersive services (e.g., augmented or virtual reality).

Authentication and payment services facilitate electronic transactions on behalf of the vehicle and/or its occupants. These transactions can be used to access personalization services and profiles, pay for goods and services consumed by the vehicle (e.g., gas and tolls), and engage with third-party cloud infrastructure and services (e.g., vehicle charging and garage access).

Mapping and location-based services are built on the foundational premise that a vehicle exists to move people and/or goods from a source to a destination. Mapping vendors are continuing to invest in improving how location data is being gathered, analyzed, and distributed to be able to improve route efficiency, integrate more contextual data for advertising, map the contours and lanes of the roads (e.g., as in the requirements for AVs), and raise the use and importance of location in the delivery of operational and support services. As location context becomes more critical to vehicle and transportation management, the granularity for accuracy and fidelity continues to increase.

Finally, safety services include the products, services, and monitoring capabilities that ensure the protection of the vehicle, its occupants, and others on the roadway. These services include onboard, brought-in (smartphone applications), or aftermarket hardware- and software-provided features such as crash avoidance and autobraking, construction and accident information, roadside assistance, voice-to-text translation, and driver and occupant monitoring.

All these will lead to the servicification of the automotive industry, and buyers will differentiate between different manufacturers on the basis of the service they deliver besides the overall experience of the vehicle. Buyers will no longer kick the tyres or listen to the thud of the door closing when deciding on a vehicle to buy but will test out the connectivity, the infotainment system, the integration with insurance or payment processing capabilities, or technology updates as key performance metrics.

Also Read: Maruti Suzuki’s electric vehicle dream: Can it replicate ICE success?

(Abhijit Roy is a technology explainer and business journalist. He has worked with Strait Times of Singapore, Business Today, Economic Times and The Telegraph. Also worked with PwC, IBM, Wipro, Ericsson.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Autofintechs.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)


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