The 100% autonomous car: the biggest challenge for the automotive industry

Raising the wildest hopes and fantasizing about a future where anything is allowed, the autonomous car continues to get people talking about it. If technological progress makes it possible to imagine the best, its design remains very complex. Between the increasingly urgent cyber efforts and the difficulty of designing a coherent regulatory framework, total autonomy is not yet relevant.

Important technological challenges

Self-driving car design is as exciting as it is complex for manufacturers. By wanting to integrate a growing number of technologies, these cars are transformed into overpowered computers capable of carrying an impressive amount of software. And the more the years go by, the more the need for technology intensifies. One of the reasons? Depending on the autonomy of a vehicle, the quality and speed of the decisions it makes depends a lot on the amount of data collected. These are essential for the vehicle to respond in the right way to its immediate surroundings. Achieving this vision is one of the biggest challenges in the automotive industry today.

This is without counting the technological battle surrounding the design of an OS for the autonomous car. Some manufacturers, like Volkswagen, want to design a proprietary OS that may or may not integrate other OSes on the market. Such a goal requires large teams dedicated to its development, which reflects a certain balance of power engaged in the digital giants and especially GAFAM. In fact, and in addition to the technological problems, there is also a real battle for influence, which will continue to characterize the production of autonomous vehicles.

Cyber ​​security: a critical aspect for manufacturers

In the automotive sector and especially with regard to autonomous cars, cyber security is really taken into account and integrated into the production strategy of manufacturers. Due to the colossal amount of data collected about vehicle and driver behavior, ensuring the security of this information is a necessity. Often analyzed, in the past, in a rear end outside the vehicle, the many essential data about the car will have to be collected and processed in it to strengthen their security and confidentiality.

Implementing an effective cyber strategy also involves choosing the right cloud provider, one that complies with current regulations and more specifically GDPR. The manufacturers’ ability to use the public cloud must be regulated and respect the issues of data management. The sensitivity of car data thus requires a very careful behavior on the part of manufacturers, who also do not want to leak industrial data that could serve the interests of competitors. A certain mistrust that pushes the car industry to create its own data space: the Catena-X project. Without limiting access to hyperscalers, this project aims to create a common framework covering the issues of hosting, accessibility and the legal framework for data protection. Catena-X will thus ensure the digital sovereignty of car operators and at the same time facilitate the exchange of data between them.

Total autonomy, a challenge on all levels

After all, moving towards more autonomy implies some increase in the technological complexity of the vehicle. With the use of AI, manufacturers must, among other things, be more and more concerned about the safety of self-driving cars. It is therefore necessary to exercise constant vigilance because cyber problems evolve very quickly.

As we can see, the race for advanced technologies to produce the best self-driving car has only just begun, and recent years have shown that market players have taken full advantage of it. Faced with a growing shortage of IT resources, many of them have sought to recruit CTOs (chief technical officers) to avoid falling too far behind the competition. However, these modernization efforts will continue to yield limited results as long as the many legislative and regulatory blockages associated with the concept of autonomy are not removed.

Op-ed written by: John Michalczik, Vice President Account Management Automotive & Manufacturing Industries at T-Systems

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