Naturally, autonomous vehicles (AVs) need connected roads to ply on. However, without fast data exchange, they can become white elephants.

The adoption of autonomous vehicles (AVs) has been rapidly increasing in recent years. In Singapore, over 50 driverless vehicles are being tested and approved to ply Singapore’s roads, given the benefits of this technology such as greater efficiency, low carbon footprint, optimization of parking spaces and controllability of traffic flow. 

However, as AVs are more software-defined compared to the everyday combustion vehicle or even electric vehicle (EV), their seamless operation requires huge flows of data in a quick, secure, and stable manner through high speed 5G network connectivity to global interconnection platforms such as DE-CIX.

Ivo Ivanov, CEO, DE-CIX

According to Ivo Ivanov, the interconnection platform’s Chief Executive Officer, given how nascent AV technology is, there is still vast room for exploring the application of network connectivity—more so than the challenge of ensuring that road networks are connected to support AV operation. How so? He explained more to in an exclusive interview.

DigiconAsia: Are AVs more difficult to maintain, secure and repair compared to standard EVs?

II: AVs are typically more software-defined than traditional automotive designs and the driving style can be optimized to minimize damage and wear-and-tear, so the maintenance needs of these vehicles are reduced in comparison to traditional designs.  

AVs will also have data-centric predictive maintenance, with onboard diagnostics of each vehicle’s various operational aspects even before something breaks down.

To ensure the level of safety, privacy and security of passengers is always maintained, AV operators need to maintain sensor systems and software regularly, just as computers and smart mobile need similar security patches to be rendered secure against evolving cyber threats.

DigiconAsia: In the future of digitalized transport, is the need to look at AV network connectivity more critical than physical road connectivity?

Ivo Ivanov (II): For AVs to be effective, a robust, secure, resilient, and low latency interconnection 5G infrastructure is more vital than road connectivity.

As AVs are highly software-defined and data-driven, the huge amounts of data via IoT sensors and control systems need to flow quickly, securely, and stably between low latency 5G networks and then between cloud-based platforms. This end-to-end high speed global connectivity will then ensure seamless operation and facilitate other AV advantages such as personalization and intelligent automation.

This efficient ecosystem of hardware, software and connectivity will help cities like Singapore (with their urban mobility challenges and land/manpower constraints) meet the rising demand for a comprehensive and efficient public transport system in a sustainable way.

More recently, Shanghai had begun to trial self-driving taxis within a few square kilometers in the city, as part of China’s plan to launch such a service across the country by 2025.

Meanwhile, in  South Korea, the government has unveiled a revised roadmap on improving regulations for self-driving cars, starting with the launch of Level 3 AVs. 

DigiconAsia: While electric vehicles are now the future of sustainability, how does making them autonomous impact sustainability goals and other socio-economic benefits? 

II: A clear reduction in emissions is achieved by AVs, eliminating the need for a person’s “driving  style” typified by humans’ penchant to achieve high speeds and thereby needing to brake and re-accelerate excessively. Also:

  • As AVs will be capable of synchronizing with one another seamlessly to transport passengers or goods safely and efficiently, traffic congestion will be reduced.
  • AV technology has the flexibility to offer ecologically-friendly mobility solutions. This clean technology will be able to help countries in Asia to address congestion and pollution, and boost livability and economic growth. 
  • To support this ‘greenification’, however, carbon emissions, cities need to build electric charging stations or charging points to offer convenience and predictability to AV owners.
  • In terms of data needs, growing fleets of EVs and AVs and will increase the demand for efficient interconnection services to facilitate sustainable high quality data exchange across vast distances. 

DigiconAsia: With such data-heavy operation, what are the challenges of protecting data privacy and security in the AV and digitalized transport sector? 

II: Modern cars are already producing more than a terabyte of data per day, and AVs will likely exceed this. The data flow within AVs includes location data, identity of passengers, and many other kinds of sensitive data that need to be secured and protected from cyber threats.

The challenge for car makers is to secure this data when it leaves the car. Data flows must follow direct pathways, be  exchanged securely with partners involved in the operation of the AV and sent to the Cloud for processing.  

One solution to handle cyber risk management challenges here would be for vehicle manufacturers to set up a closed user group (CUG). This is a closed, secure and private interconnection environment wherein policies and compliance requirements are enabled on an Internet Exchange.

Once participants fulfill the prerequisites, data exchange within the group can be efficiently managed and adapted to the needs of a given market or regulatory region. 

CUGs can mitigate cyber threat risks through the direct interconnection of authorized networks. This ensures fewer intermediary transporters between the automotive network and the network of a legitimate data supplier/recipient. 

Additionally, to ensure the resilience of connectivity necessary for critical AV applications and data, manufacturers and stakeholders should utilize distributed platforms and create multiple redundant data pathways to avoid a single point of failure. This also includes developing a multi-cloud strategy, which is crucial for ensuring that the AV data flows are not dependent on any single provider.