Will Connected Cars Break the Internet?


  • Connected cars can be manufactured up to 10 exabytes of monthly data, a thousand-fold increase over current data volumes.
  • This has serious implications for policy makers, manufacturers and local network infrastructure.

Today’s connected cars look more like computers on wheels when compared to the dumb cars that dominated the twentieth century.

Today’s connected cars are equipped with as much 200 board sensor, tracking everything from engine temperature to seat belt status. And all those sensors are generating reams of data that will grow exponentially as the autonomous driving revolution accelerates.

With automakers planning to upload 50-70% of that datathis has serious implications for policy makers, manufacturers and local network infrastructures.

In this reflection of our sponsor Global X ETFswe ask the question: will connected cars break the Internet?

Data is a plural noun

How much data can there be?

There are many grades ranging from as much as 450 TB per day for robotics, as little as 0.383 TB per hour for a minimally connected machine. This visualization augments the sensor outputs found in a typical connected car of the future, with at least some self-driving capabilities.

The focus is on the types of sensors an automated vehicle can use because they are data hogs. Sensors like the one that turns on your check oil light probably don’t produce that much data. But is it? 4K camera at 30 frames per secondon the other hand, produces 5.4 TB per hour.

Sensor: Sensors for each vehicle Generated data
RADAR: 4-6: 0.1-15 Mbps/sensor
LIDAR: 1-5: 20-100 Mbps / sensor
Camera 6-12: 500-3500 Mbps/sensor
Ultrasonic 8-16: <0.01 Mbps/sensor
Vehicle motion, GNSS/GPS, IMU h/h <0.1 Mbps
General information 3-40 Gbps/machine

In total, you can have anywhere from 1.4TB to 19TB per hour. Given that US drivers spend 17,600 minutes of driving per year, the machine can produce between 380 and 5100 TB every year.

To put this upper range into perspective, the largest commercially available computer storage, the 100 TB SSD Exadrive from Nimbus, will fill up in 5 hours. A standard Blu-ray disc (50GB) will fill in under 2 seconds.

Lag drags

The problem is twofold. First of all, the internet is better at downloading than uploading. And this makes sense when you think about it. How often do you upload video vs. download or stream?

Average global mobile download speed were 30.78 MB/s in July, vs 8.55 MB/s for uploads. Fixed broadband is certainly much higher, but no one is suggesting that you run really, really long network cables into moving cars.

After all, there isn’t enough bandwidth to go around. Consider the types of data traffic that a connected machine can produce;

  • Vehicle (V2V)
  • Vehicular network (V2G)
  • Transport for People (V2P)
  • Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I)
  • Vehicles for Everything (V2E)

The network just won’t be able to handle it.

Moreover, for the roads to be safe, the delay should be relatively absent. If a traffic camera detects that another car has run a red light and is about to bone you, that message should reach you now, not in a few seconds.

Full to the Gunuals

The second issue is storage. Just where should all this data go? 2021 total data storage capacity was 8 zettabytes (ZB) and is set to double up to 16 ZB by 2025.

One study predicted that connected cars could be produced by 10 exabytes per montha thousand-fold increase over current data volumes.

At that rate, 8 ZB will be filled in 2.2 yearswhich seems like a long time until you consider that we still need a place to put the rest of our data as well.

On the bleeding edge

Fortunately, you don’t have to upload all that data. As already mentioned, car manufacturers are only interested in uploading some of them. Also, the privacy laws of some jurisdictions may prevent highly personal information, such as the precise location of a vehicle, from being shared with manufacturers.

Uploading can also be shifted to off-peak hours to equalize the demand on the network infrastructure. Plug in your EV to charge at the end of the day and upload the data in the evening when network traffic dies down. This would be fine for maintenance logs, but less useful for the real-time data discussed above.

For that, Edge Computing might hold the answer. It Automotive Edge Computing Consortium has a next-generation network plan based on distributed computing over localized networks. Storage and compute resources stay closer to the data source on the connected machine to improve response time and reduce bandwidth loads.

Investing in the future of road transport

By 2030, 95% of new cars sold will be connected cars, up from 50% today, and companies are scrambling to meet the challenge by creating investment opportunities.

Learn more Global X Autonomous and Electric Vehicle ETF (DRIV). It provides exposure to companies developing autonomous vehicles, EVs, and EV components and materials.

And be sure to read about how experimental technologies like Edge Computing are driving change in road transport Breaking the charts. This joint report by Global X ETFs and the Wall Street Journal is also available as a downloadable PDF.

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