SAE 2019 World Congress – 4/12/19
The 2019 SAE World Congress took place April 9-11 at Cobo Center in Detroit.
From the sessions I attended it seems to me that the hype over Autonomous and Electric Vehicles and hysteria over Cyber Security has largely subsided. These topics have reached enough maturity where the solid work being done in these areas supersedes the flashy marketing presentations to which we have become accustomed.
The hottest topics by number of presentations which joined the three already mentioned were Big Data, Privacy, Prognostics and V2X.
For the first time I can remember in recent years, a liability attorney who represents OEMS regarding advanced technologies (Autonomous, Cyber Security and so on) presented on the problems his clients face and what a real mess is the legal system with regards to these issues.
Finally, Blockchain applied to automotive, which once sounded like a technology that would hold a lot of promise, seems to be falling off the map. For our purposes Blockchain appears to be a solution in search of a problem. But then again, when the LASER first appeared on the scene, it was a similar situation.
Where we can expect to see the deployment of Autonomous Vehicles within the next few years are in restricted geo-fenced areas, where conditions can be fairly-well controlled. The idea of an AV that can go anywhere in any sort of weather under all conditions is going to take a lot more work.
The increasingly aggressive deployment of ADAS systems will instead approach SAE Level 4 and 5 AV from the bottom up. Indeed, presentations on V2X, Smart Infrastructure and ADAS described a study on CACC, Collaborative Advanced Cruise Control.
Advanced Cruise Control where your car will decelerate if the system deems that you are too close to the vehicle ahead of you has been rolling out for a few years now. Some of the OEMs have been rolling out a Smart Cruise Control where your car will not only maintain speed and a safe distance but will stay in the lane as the road twists and turns without driver intervention.
CACC goes even further and makes cruise control functional in an urban setting. Using radars and cameras, V2I and V2V, cars with CACC can sense when a traffic light is turning or has turned red. As the car closest to the light slows down, the other cars behind it down the lane coordinates their deceleration and stop automatically as well.
The context in which this was described was for the optimization of traffic flow. If there was a pure system where all the vehicles were enabled with CACC and the traffic light timing could be adjusted programmatically to optimize traffic flow, simulations show double digit savings in driving time elapsed, reduction of accidents and emissions.
In a mixed fleet with fixed traffic light timing, the cameras and radar serve in place of the V2X communications and significant savings could still be achieved.
The headwinds to widespread adoption of Electric Vehicles are straight forward: Cost, range anxiety, charging time and availability of charging stations. All these issues are being worked on aggressively. The big push for EVs in China will give the weight to these issues being solved.
It became clear that for the future as far as we can see won’t be EV OR Internal Combustion Engines. The future will be EV AND ICE. Internal combustion engines are continuously being improved and there will continue to be a market for them.
Cyber Security has gone through several phases. The first was that recognizing that hacking a car was a real potential problem. The OEMs were in denial and it wasn’t until the general public became aware that there was any movement to get anything done.
Once the famous Jeep hack occurred, there was suddenly a sense of urgency. For the next few years, the presentations at the World Congress and other conferences gave us countless cyber security schemes for automotive.
The subject has matured as each OEM has put significant resources into this topic. It is often said in the automotive industry now that the two priorities are Safety and Security.
The OEMS are all rolling out their security programs with a range of effectiveness and the next phases that are ripening includes the recognition that each of them having their own unique systems creates complications throughout of the rest of the supporting industry, including both suppliers and aftermarket; and that the poorer performers need to step up their efforts.
Cyber Security for automotive is still a relatively new field where there is plenty of room for new entrants and a seemingly inexhaustible well of problems to address.
The primary driver for deploying Telematics in new vehicles is to monetize the data each of them creates. Intel predicts that an autonomous vehicle will create 4,000 GB of data daily. Big Data is the new oil.
Big Data enables Prognostics which would help the OEMs avoid recalls by being able to predict upcoming problems based on large fleet data and issuing Technical Service Bulletins instead. Big Data enables cars to function as mobile sensors to keep maps, traffic conditions, and weather tracking, to name a few, up to date in real time.
Commercial fleets have been using Telematics, Big Data and Prognostics to dynamically create predictive and preventive maintenance services. They have been leading the way and the automotive OEMS are eager to go far beyond what has been implanted so far for light vehicle fleets.
Within the last year or so, Privacy has risen almost to the level of Safety and Security in automotive. One study showed that using a set of signals that are already available on a car, 15 out of 15 drivers could be uniquely identified over some number of vehicles. Another study correctly identified 20 of 24 drivers using data generated prior to putting the car into Drive.
The presentation by the liability lawyer was fascinating. He described the OEMS are having to play Whack a Mole with lawsuits coming at them from all directions based on laws that were not written with high technology in mind, written by legislators who don’t understand the subject matter and adjudicated by judges and juries who don’t understand it either.
He pointed out that some of the cases that have gone to trial or have been dismissed could have easily gone the other way simply if it had been brought before a different judge sometimes in an adjacent courtroom.
The liability incurred for ADAS systems is something that is being worked through now and large-scale deployment of Autonomous Vehicles will only create new and larger headaches for OEMs and their suppliers.
Privacy is looming as a source of lawsuits. The OEMS recognize the threat and that they don’t know just how it will come at them. Some clever plaintiff will figure it out.
At the last World Congress, there was a presentation on Blockchain and the possible applications for automotive. Some were obvious, such as supply chain management. But the question remained: could Blockchain be applied to the data in a car?
One of the presentations directly addressed this question. The brief answer is ‘no.’
Applying Blockchain to vehicle data would require more processing power and network bandwidth than exists for the foreseeable future.
It will be interesting to see how these topics develop over the next year.