Speed has always been part of the mystique of the automotive business. But cars have been notoriously slow when it comes to handling information. It is a problem that has only become more pressing as the era of autonomous vehicles looms, with competing interests racing to be the first with a solution.
New advanced driver assistance systems like automatic emergency braking, electronic stability control and lane-keeping assistance demand instant communications. So automakers have been supplementing their networks, adding 100 megabit per second (Mbps) Ethernet cabling, for example, to the rat’s nest of wiring inside vehicles.
“But when every new feature gets added, you add a new E.C.U. and a new layer of wiring,” said Jack Weast, the chief systems architect for autonomous driving solutions at Intel. That approach is inefficient, expensive, heavy — and still slow. “So from a connectivity point of view there’s a need to re-architect the vehicle from the inside out,” Mr. Weast said.
Underscoring the urgency for a new high-speed network in cars is the coming wave of autonomous driving systems.
“You have to have ridiculous, super-human sensors to make up for the fact that computers aren’t nearly as smart as humans — and won’t be for a very, very long time,” said Austin Russell, chief executive of Luminar.
That means more sensors — and more data. Experimental designs for autonomous cars incorporate as many as 16 video cameras, 12 radar sensors, half a dozen ultrasonic sensors, and four or five lidar sensors. And still more sensors and scanners might be necessary to make self-driving cars impervious to exigencies like blinding blizzards and soaking downpours.
Self-driving cars will generate 4 terabytes of data per hour. That includes live information about road conditions, weather, objects around them, traffic and street signs — all of which has to be shared among components in the car and used to make split-second driving decisions.
So cars need definitely to get faster, but not on the road, but on the inside.
By John R. Quain, first published in the New York Times on Aug. 17, 2018, an abridged text