Will connected cars break the internet?

The briefing

  • Connected cars could produce up to 10 exabytes data per month, a thousandfold increase over current data volumes.
  • This has serious implications for policymakers, manufacturers and local area network infrastructure.

Modern connected cars are more like computers on wheels than the dumb cars that dominated the 20th century.

Today’s connected cars come with as much as 200 built-in sensors, tracking everything from engine temperature to seat belt condition. And all these sensors are creating troves of data that will grow exponentially as the autonomous driving revolution gathers pace.

Automakers are planning an uptick 50-70% of this datathis has serious implications for policy makers, manufacturers and local area network infrastructure.

In this preview from our sponsor Global X ETF, we ask the question: Will connected cars break the Internet?

Data is a plural noun

Exactly how much data could it be?

There are many estimates, from as much as 450 TB per day for robotics, to as little as 0.383 TB per hour for a car with minimal connectivity. This visualization collects the results of sensors found in a typical connected car of the future with at least some self-driving capabilities.

The focus is on the types of sensors an automated vehicle can use because those are the data hogs. Sensors like the one that turns on the oil check light probably don’t produce that much data. But a 4K 30fps camera, on the other hand, produces 5.4 TB per hour.

Sensor Vehicle sensors Manufactured data
RADAR 4-6 0.1-15 Mbit/s/sensor
LiDAR 1-5 20-100 Mbit/s/sensor
Camera 6-12 500-3500 Mbit/s/sensor
Ultrasonic 8-16
Vehicle movement, GNSS/GPS, IMU there is no
Total data 3-40 Gbit/s/vehicle

In general, you can have anywhere between 1.4 TB and 19 TB per hour. Given that US drivers spend 17,600 minutes driving each year, a single vehicle can produce between 380 and 5100 TB each year.

To put this upper range into perspective, the largest commercially available computer storage – the 100 TB SSD Exadrive from Nimbus – would be full in 5 hours. A standard Blu-ray disc (50 GB) will be full in less than 2 seconds.

Delay is resistance

The problem is twofold. First of all, the internet is better at downloading than uploading. And it makes sense when you think about it. How often do you upload a video compared to downloading or streaming?

Average global mobile download speeds were 30.78 MB/s in July 2022, vs 8.55 MB/s for uploads. Fixed broadband is much higher, of course, but no one is suggesting that you run really, really long network cables to moving vehicles.

After all, there isn’t enough bandwidth to go around. Consider the types of data traffic a connected car can generate:

  • Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V)
  • Vehicle to Network (V2G)
  • Vehicles to People (V2P)
  • Vehicles to Infrastructure (V2I)
  • Vehicles for Everything (V2E)

The network just won’t be able to handle it.

Also, lag must be relatively non-existent for the roads to be safe. If a traffic camera detects that another car has run a red light and is about to hit you, that message should reach you right now, not a few seconds later.

Full for Gunwales

The second problem is storage. Where should all this data go? In 2021, the total global data storage capacity was 8 zettabytes (ZB) and is set to double to 16 ZB by 2025.

One study predicts that connected cars could produce up to 10 exabytes per montha thousandfold increase over current data volumes.

At this rate, 8 ZB will be complete in 2.2 yearswhich seems like a long time until you consider that we still need a place to put the rest of our data as well.

On the bleeding edge

Fortunately, not all of this data needs to be uploaded. As already noted, car manufacturers are only interested in picking up some of that. In addition, privacy laws in some jurisdictions may prevent the sharing of highly personal data, such as the exact location of a vehicle, with manufacturers.

Uploading can also be moved to off-peak hours to balance the demand on the network infrastructure. Plug in your EV at the end of the day to charge it, and upload data in the evening when network traffic is down. This would be fine for maintenance logs, but less useful for the kind of real-time data discussed above.

For that, Edge Computing may hold the answer. The Automotive Edge Computing Consortium has a plan for a next-generation network based on distributed computing on localized networks. Storage and compute resources stay closer to the data source – the connected car – to improve response times and reduce bandwidth burdens.

Invest in the future of road transport

By 2030, 95% of new vehicles sold will be connected vehicles, up from 50% today, and companies are racing to meet the challenge, creating investment opportunities.

Learn more about the Global X Autonomous & Electric Vehicles ETF (DRIV). It provides exposure to companies involved in the development of autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles and electric vehicle components and materials.

And don’t forget to read about how empirical technologies like Edge Computing are driving change in road transport in Charting Disruption. This joint report by Global X ETFs and the Wall Street Journal is also available as a PDF download.

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