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Future of cars is in the cloud

BMW has embraced the cloud for both its connected car initiatives and the development of the next generation of vehicles, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Cars may be confined to the road but, increasingly, they depend on the cloud. From design and manufacture of vehicles to driving and maintenance, cloud computing has become critical to every part of the literal and figurative journey.

When the BMW Group announced recently that it had chosen Amazon Web Services (AWS)  as the preferred cloud provider for its automated driving platform, it was about more than merely connecting cars to the Internet. That may have been cutting edge 10 years ago, but is a standard expectation today.

Rather, the BMW Group will use it to develop its next-generation advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), using AWS to help innovate new features, using services like generative artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and storage capabilities.

ADAS is already being used in current cars, using advanced software and onboard sensors to provide driver warnings, automated braking, and steering functions to improve a vehicle’s performance on the road.

But the cloud has a further major benefit: as vehicle manufacturers deploy higher-level automated driving functions, such as parking assist and piloted driving, the vehicles create massive amounts of data. BMW will use AWS to help scale its capacity to handle such vast increases in data creation. This will, in turn, help BMW speed up the development of new functions for its vehicles.

“In the next decade, consumer habits and expectations will drive more changes in the automotive industry than we’ve seen over the past 30 years,” says Dr Nicolai Martin, senior vice president of driving experience at the BMW Group. “This is just the beginning of a new era of highly automated driving, fueled by innovations in technology and engineering.”

The partnership was underscored this week when BMW was invited to participate in the opening keynote of the annual AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas.

Stephan Durach, senior vice president of the connected company at BMW, told the audience: “Data is key. Automotive product complexity is strongly increasing and development speed is essential.

“Across the entire product portfolio, from BMW to Mini and even Rolls Royce, BMW is providing a game changing vehicle entertainment and experience. By utilising the global presence of AWS in many regions worldwide, we are updating more than 6-million vehicles over the air on a regular basis. Those numbers are growing constantly. It requires us to manage more than 12-billion requests per day with over 1,000 different micro-services.”

On the show floor at re:Invent, automotive technology could be spotted “under the hood” at numerous stands. One of these, HiveMQ, which uses the Internet of Things to connect machines, coincidentally started life as an automotive tech provider to BMW and Vokswagen. Today it serves the automotive industry in general, as well as a number of adjacent industries.

The company’s co-founder and chief technology officer, Dominik Obermaier, described a similar scenario to the one presented by Durach: “Customers are connecting millions of cars through our platform, in order to move the data from the car to the cloud, and then through a data lake to some processing services, and back again.

“The automotive industry was clearly an innovator. But now you see our technologies being used in oil and gas and renewables.  We see it as the Industrial Internet of Things which is in factories. I have calls pretty much every day with customers around that, because there’s a new paradigm coming up in the industry. There is going to be like a central nervous system from the edge to the cloud, and you’ll move data seamlessly. You want real time data access, but you still don’t want to stop producing and now you can actually do that.”

The journey can only get more interesting from here on in.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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