How Do the Automotive and Telecom Sectors Work Together to Develop New Technologies?

Autonomous vehicles and their enormous data requirements mean that the telecom and automotive sectors are working together more and more.

Richard Parfitt

In some ways, your car is a smartphone with wheels. You only have to go back ten years and the idea of a car that communicated directly with your phone was a novelty. Now, pretty much every new car has connected technology like Android Auto or CarPlay so that your phone and your car can work together.

That is, however, just the beginning when it comes to the new technologies that the automotive and telecom industries are developing together. In this blog, we explore how the two industries are transforming personal mobility.

Where do the automotive and telecom sectors overlap?

The line between telecom and automotive has been blurring for some time. GPS and satellite radio are telecom innovations as much as they are innovations in your car.

Some of the crossover between cars and phones is obvious. From the first hands-free kits to phone chargers in your car and Bluetooth, the industry has been working hard to make your phone a part of your driving experience. That’s not to mention that, in 2022, 12% of new car buyers in the United States used a cell phone app to buy their car.

But those innovations are starting to look like old news. In-vehicle entertainment and navigation systems that rely on your phone are already a thing of the past in some cars. Deutsche Telekom has been working with BMW since 2015, building its in-house ConnectedDrive system and fitting cars with an LTE eSIM that means it doesn’t need a cell phone plugged in for those systems to work.

The same systems can control Smart Home devices. Driving home on a cold day? Your car can turn the heating on, so the house is warm by the time you open the front door. They also help your engine last longer and use less energy, giving electric vehicles a much better range.

How do autonomous vehicles rely on the telecom industry?

Those are cool add-ons but, when autonomous cars become dominant, telecom tech is going to do much more than that. It’s going to be fundamental to how your car operates.

AI-enabled vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology will allow cars to communicate with one another and with Internet of Things (IoT) devices to avoid crashes, protect pedestrians, and ease traffic by enabling ride sharing and finding faster routes.

In other words, it means cars can be safer and much more efficient, not just more entertaining.

That creates pressure on both carmakers and telecom providers. Why? Smart devices are hackable devices. Automotive manufacturers are not, traditionally, cybersecurity experts. No wonder, then, that car companies are so busy hiring talent in areas like AI and machine learning.

On top of that, when every car on the road is downloading and uploading data every second, with every change of speed and direction, that means a lot of traffic over the 5G networks that carry the data. Connected Car sales are already enjoying double digit growth every year. According to IBM, if just 20% of cars on the road become highly autonomous, they’ll be generating around 300 zettabytes of data every year.

That’s roughly equivalent to 100 times the amount of data generated annually by all the world’s social media users put together. “The resulting massive volumes of vehicle data,” IBM says, “will flood telecommunications networks.” You don’t say.

Coverage is going to have to improve, infrastructure is going to have to use power efficiently, and the system is going to have to be unbreakable. Those are not easy objectives.

Source: Statista

Industry Impact

Both industries are responding. The biggest impact, undoubtedly, will be on automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) themselves. No wonder then, that manufacturers are pursuing collaborations across traditional industry boundaries.

We talked already about Deutsche Telekom’s work with BMW. That is one model for collaboration, with Deutsche Telekom helping BMW build their own in-house systems. Renault and Orange have taken a similar approach, with Orange supplying M2M SIM cards to Renault vehicles fitted with a tablet developed in-house.

Others are selling hardware directly to manufacturers. Bosch supplies infotainment systems to the majority of OEMs but relies on telecom companies to provide the networks on which that hardware operates.

AT&T considers connected cars a “key growth area”, with over one million cars on its network already. 31 different car brands work with AT&T in the US and 5G is increasing that level of integration all the time.

Vodafone, meanwhile, provides both software and hardware to its customers, which includes major OEMs like Porsche and Audi. Apple and Google, of course, have long provided in-car software and have helped other developers and suppliers enter the market by hosting apps on their devices (Waze, Spotify, and WhatsApp, for example).

And what happens if your car loses signal? This is why the larger infrastructure required to make 5G networks available everywhere, built by firms like Nokia and Ericsson, is vital. The cloud computing requirements, likewise, will be enormous. Providers like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google will be key in that regard.

MTN Consulting provides this list of just some of the different sectors and businesses involved:

- Telecom Operators – AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Telia, Telefonica, Vodafone
- Technology Vendors – Nokia, Ericsson
- Cloud Providers – Google, Amazon, Microsoft
- Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) – VW, Ford, BMW, Audi, Hyundai
- System Integrators (SIs) – IBM, Accenture
- Over-the-Top (OTTs) Players – Google, Apple
- Platform Providers – Jasper, Airbiquity
- Other Suppliers – OnStar, Continental

Future Prospects

The point is, the automotive sector has a lot of work to do. With Apple talking about developing its own car, alongside Tesla’s already growing share of the market, established OEMs know that failing to develop the right skills, capabilities, and talent will mean the end of their business.

What shape will that take? Expect more partnerships with 5G providers and infrastructure providers. 6G won’t be far behind and is expect to be 100 times faster than 5G. That will go a long way to giving autonomous cars the data they need.

McKinsey predicts that the massive infrastructure requirements needed, combined with the work needed to adjust road networks to a world where autonomous vehicles are the norm, will mean more public-private partnerships. A state-run fleet of autonomous vehicles that can pick you up, wherever you are, and drop you off at your destination? It may not be out of the question.

All that means if you think your automotive business is rapidly turning into a technology business, you’re right. That’s a trend that’s going to continue and so, if you’re not already recruiting the right talent, you risk falling behind. Machine learning, AI, and cybersecurity are just some of the key skills required. If you need help addressing that skills gap in your organization, get in touch today.