It’s time to get real about Connected Cars and the volume of data that they will generate.

Connected vehicles are often mentioned as being a major driver for 5G, especially with respect to the provision of low-latency communications for safety-related use-cases. With the 5G capability to provide ‘network slicing’, it is likely that automotive manufacturers will be attracted to such offerings with a view to improved security, resource allocation and service differentiation.

While viable business models for the support of safety-related use-cases are still to be defined, modern vehicles are already connected to service provider networks using cellular technology for a range of applications.

In a series of blog posts, we will take a closer look at ‘Connected vehicles’, providing an insight into the data volumes that connected vehicle generate today and what that might look like in the near future.

That number…

In 2016, Intel presented a slide, suggesting that autonomous vehicles will generate 4TB of data per day. This was a wonderful ‘sticky’ number that is still quoted in the press today.

What was lost from the message was that the vast majority of this data never leaves the vehicle. Further, the 4TB figure was in respect to research and development vehicles, not regular production vehicles.

While there is no doubt that future production vehicles will generate increasing amounts of data, we need to remember that much of the data will be recorded and processed locally within the vehicle, with the majority of the information being discarded. Only a subset of the overall data, the most valuable data, will be transmitted back toward the vehicle manufacturer.

Vehicle telemetry can offer the manufacturer significant insights into the operational behavior and performance of the vehicle, as well as the ability to understand their customer base in greater detail. The data may also open other business relationships such as vehicle insurance (own or partnered) and shared mobility services. Telemetry can reveal if the windscreen wipers are used, and if so, how often. It can reveal if particular features within the vehicle are being used or not. For some vehicle manufacturers, the collection of telemetry information combined with data from sensors such as cameras, is extremely valuable in helping to providing ‘training data’ for Advanced Driver Assistance Services (ADAS) and systems that may offer forms of automated driving (SAE Levels 3, 4 & 5) in the future.

Alongside the use of vehicle data by the vehicle manufacturers is the burgeoning market for this data. The McKinsey report from late 2016 estimated the revenue from vehicle data monetization could be as high as $750 billion by 2030. For vehicle manufacturers who are interested in broadening their income streams, this is a significant area of interest.

While vehicle telemetry monitoring may appear to be a valuable service to the owner/user of the vehicle, the greatest value is perhaps to the vehicle manufacturer themselves in the ability to gather information from the vehicle fleet. This information has applications in vehicle manufacture and supply chain. This can be vital in helping manage the number of vehicles impacted by recall notices and the associated warranty costs. According to the study, the number of recalls related to electronic and electrical systems has risen nearly 30 percent per year since 2013, compared with 5 percent annual increases from 2007 to 2013. With the increasing ‘software-ization’ of vehicles, with some vehicles now having well over 100 million lines of code, detecting and mitigating issues that may impact the vehicle fleet is of vital importance to the manufacturers.

What is a ‘day’?

When considering Intel’s slide with the headline figure of 4TB per day, an important question to ask is, what is a ‘day’? For the automotive industry, a ‘day’ is the usage period of that vehicle within a 24-hour period (also known as the ‘duty cycle’). In the United States, the average personal light vehicle travels just over 11,200 miles per year. With an average of 261 working days per year, this equates to a distance of approximately 43 miles per day, with an average transit time of 53.8 minutes.

In the discussion about how much data vehicles generate, we need to bear in mind that our roads carry a wide variety of vehicles, from heavy-duty freight haulage to public transit services and motorcycles. The duty cycle for these vehicles varies widely, with public transport and freight vehicles needing to be in operation for a significant portion of a 24-hour period. The term ‘per-day’ therefore needs to be replaced. Instead, we need to understand the usage pattern and determine data volume ‘per-duty-cycle’ of the vehicle.

In the next blog post – we’re going to focus on In-Vehicle Infotainment. What is this and what data volume does it represent?


Joel Obstfeld

Distinguished Engineer

Chief Technology & Architects Office