The adoption of self-driving or autonomous vehicles (AVs) has been rapidly increasing in recent years. In Singapore, AVs are a key focus as part of the country’s Smart Nation initiative. Most recently, over 50 driverless vehicles are being tested and approved to ply Singapore’s roads. Organizations such as ComfortDelGro, Grab, URA, and the likes have also invested heavily into the sector given its benefits, such as greater efficiency, reduction in carbon emissions, optimization of parking spaces, and improvement in traffic flow.

As AVs are typically more software-defined compared to traditional automotive designs, there is a critical need for huge flows of data in a quick, secure, and stable manner through network connectivity to interconnection platforms, in order to ensure their seamless operation and efficiency. Key drivers for innovation in the automotive industry today and into the future are autonomous driving, data-driven services, and personalization, all of which are dependent on data. However, how can car manufacturers and technology providers work together to fully realize the potential of digitalization and connectivity?

The connected car: So much more than a means of transport

As systems evolve towards fully autonomous driving, data-driven services, and much greater personalization in the software-defined car, robust, high-performance, and secure connectivity will become increasingly indispensable.

Even today, a car is home to more than 100 million lines of code, and already produces more than a terabyte of data per day. The value of this data for a myriad of use cases is what is driving car manufacturers to transform into software developers and platform providers – because whoever moderates the data journey of the connected car of the future will become the next massive tech player in the digital industry.

Speeding toward the reality of ubiquitous driverless vehicles, the car is transforming into something new. It is no longer simply a means of getting from point A to point B, but becoming an office on wheels, a second living room full of entertainment possibilities, and a platform for highly intelligent digital mobility services.

For car manufacturers, it is about differentiation in an extremely competitive market. The industry is increasingly recognizing this, with the global automotive digital cockpit market size expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8 percent from 2021 to 2028, according to Grand View Research. The customer of the future will pay more attention to the digital performance and services of a car – in-vehicle telematics, infotainment systems, safety and pollution sensors, and more – than to the engine performance.

Foundation for the future car

The foundational driver behind innovation in the automotive industry is connectivity – it is even more important than roads for the future of digitalized transport. Already today, the connected car contains thousands of sensors, not only perceiving the location, the physical environment outside of the car, the speed and safety of the vehicle, fuel consumption, and monitoring the many physical systems, but also knowing the identities and preferences of the various occupants and the commonly taken routes, and monitoring the behavior and physical condition of the driver.

The data produced by a connected car, therefore, goes to the absolute core of our privacy, given that we treat the car as a second living room and office on wheels. As long as it can be handled with appropriate attention to data protection, privacy, and security, the data produced and analyzed by a car will form part of a market valued in trillions of dollars across a variety of industry segments.

But the data is perhaps most sought-after by the carmaker itself, to transform and optimize the driving experience. For this, not only must the connectivity to each of the players participating in digital service provision to the car – as well as to their cloud-based applications and data processing infrastructure – be secure, but it must also be of the highest resilience and the lowest latency (meaning the shortest data pathways and fastest reaction times), enabling low millisecond response times in a moving vehicle.

The wireless networks that connect to the car also need to be properly connected to digital resources at the other end – such as to the carmaker’s systems for the analysis of engine performance and the safety of the car, to tools, and to traffic monitoring and management systems. This also includes the connections to a multitude of clouds for a variety of functions such as storing individual preferences and systems offering real-time data like providing the best route to smart parking solutions.

The crucial role of interconnection infrastructure

Not even the best software will help the data performance and the level of security in a software-defined car if the interconnection infrastructure behind it is not up to the task – interconnection infrastructure remains the foundation for digital performance.

Every single millisecond counts in getting the best performance out of cloud-based or remotely hosted applications. This is valid for the connected cars of today and will be even more so for the driverless cars of the future. Therefore, controlling interconnection infrastructure and having their own set ups in data centers around the globe will be crucial for car manufacturers, application providers, and platform operators to ensure the best end-user experience and the performance of the software-defined vehicle.

Interconnection platforms are building the future of automotives

To remain in the driving seat of the connected car, car manufacturers must transform their own operations, and get hands-on with their connectivity infrastructure. With advances in the automation of interconnection and the development of associated APIs, this is now easier than it has ever been. It is the task of the automotive platform operator – be it the car manufacturer or the developer of the operating system – to ensure that all car-related data transfers are executed in the most secure, reliable, and high-performance way possible.

Here, they need to involve one further partner: an interconnection platform operator as an aggregation layer, to bring the stakeholders together, to route the data flows securely, and to improve the resilience and performance of the connectivity to and from the connected car.  By choosing an interconnection platform that already has an established and vibrant ecosystem of diverse kinds of networks, a car manufacturer can position itself right on the spot, where the digital economy is already playing out and where the future is being molded.

The chances are high that the networks the car manufacturer needs to interconnect with are already participating in these ecosystems. A secure and robust interconnection platform enables these parties to connect to each other directly, using the very efficient principles of one-to-many or many-to-many. This connectivity can take the form of private and secure connections to cloud services via a Cloud Exchange, which not only bypasses the public internet but also ensures the shortest data pathways and, therefore, lowest latency.

Beyond this, if the automotive manufacturer creates its own closed and secure private ecosystem in the form of a Closed User Group (CUG) within the existing interconnection environment, the geographical distance to the other networks – and thus, the latency – is minimized, resilience is ensured, and the car manufacturer is rewarded with a substantial boost in the security of its networks and data.

The result of all this is that it is possible for an automotive manufacturer to have the best of all worlds when it comes to connectivity through high-performance, reliable, and secure interconnection – to enhance their digital products and to satisfy and protect their customers. Only with this can the automotive industry and operation of AVs on Singapore’s roads continue to scale and innovate for the future of mobility.

Ivo Ivanov is the Chief Executive Officer of DE-CIX International.

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