1.3 — Connected Mobility with Stephen Davidson

Connected mobility is a new piece of digital transformation. Learn how Dell Technologies is working directly with the automotive industry to help realize this transformation, and what that means for you and the future of transportation.
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The age of fully autonomous vehicles is closer than you think – and in some places, it’s already arrived. In this episode, Bill talks with Stephen Davidson, a Principal Engineering Technologist for the Dell Technologies Office of the CTO, to discuss what’s driving connected mobility today and how that will shape what you can expect in the future.

Read more about intelligent Connected Mobility. Download the white paper.

Guest List

  • Bill Pfeifer is a Dell Technologies messaging creator. He focuses on the emerging tech landscape and strives to ensure everyone is ready and excited for what’s coming next.
  • Stephen Davidson is a Principal Engineering Technologist for the Office of the CTO at Dell Technologies, where he delivers the enterprise insights and econometric analysis that provide support to Dell’s emerging technology innovations and engineering initiatives.

Bill Pfeifer:
Hello and welcome to The Next Horizon, a Dell Technologies podcast. I’m Bill Pfeifer and together we’ll be talking about emerging technologies, their potential to impact society, and what you need to know today.

Our guest today is Stephen Davidson. Stephen is a Principle Engineering Technologist in the Office of the CTO, or OCTO as we often refer to it internally. He focuses his days on the business strategies and economic analyses that surround emerging technologies currently working in the connected vehicle space. Stephen comes from a background in economics, market research and technology consulting with over 20 years in the technology space.

When he joined Dell, he was able to focus very clearly on the intelligent connected vehicle disruption that’s in its infancy but coming at us pretty quickly. Combining his background with expertise from the great engineers in OCTO, He’s evolved into one of several automotive and ICV subject matter experts within Dell Technologies, but with a business twist rather than a deep technical twist. So, he’s the business guy floating in a sea of engineers.

In this episode, I’ll talk to Stephen a bit about the drivers of Connected Mobility and some of the key areas to watch for to make sure you’re on track for what’s coming next. As we go through the conversations, we’ll focus more of our attention on the why of the technology. Why is it a focus for Dell Technologies and why should you care about it? Now let’s switch over to Stephen and jump into our conversation.
So, Stephen, can you tell us what the Connected Mobility space is and why it matters to Dell Technologies?

Stephen Davidson:
Absolutely. This is actually a great question. So, Connected Mobility is an extension of Dell Technologies connected brand themes. What this does is allow the organization and the enterprise to really showcase thinking, expertise, our capabilities that we have in this particular vertical of automotive and transport. We have Connected Health, we have Connected Finance, now we have Connected Mobility. It is an overarching theme and it gives us a chance to talk to the OEMs, the vehicle makers, the truck makers, the industrial vehicle makers, and also the mobility providers about how we want to interact with them going forward and the types of technologies and the solutions that we’re bringing to bear. What’s at the heart of what’s going on in the automotive and transportation industry today is really a profound disruption. This is something that we see that is well beyond digital transformation.

Absolutely, we have digital transformation going on inside the organization. They’re changing and evolving their customer and brand experience, and other transformations that are needed for workforce and manufacturing, and also their IT operations. But Connected Mobility is very different. This is a new way that the automakers, and also the transportation and the mobility providers, are changing their products and their services, as well as their operations. Then ultimately, profits of the entire industry will be adjusted and changed through this process, as well. So, this is a new inflection point that the auto makers and the transportation folks are all going through, and it’s really profound. We call that the Connected Mobility Opportunity for Dell Technologies.

Think about it this way. All the vehicle incumbents, like the Fords, the Daimlers, the Toyotas, as well as some of the newer startups and the probability providers, so a Zoox, or a Voyage, or an Uber or Lyft, right? These folks are all in a race to bring connected and autonomous vehicles and new mobility service to the market. What they’re doing is designing, they’re building new and more safer, even more functional vehicles. That is very, very new to the industry. It’s been going on for the last probably five or six years. That’s really when it all began. That’s a new change for an industry that’s been going on for over a hundred years.

The thing is though, these new vehicles, these new services that are coming forward to help ensure safety are really at the core being data-driven. And whether you’re connected or with some level of autonomy, these vehicles are going to generate and use an immense amount of data. They’re going to use that data for infotainment. They’re going to use it for safety. They’re going to use it for maintenance monitoring. And they’re also going to use it for both partial and full vehicle operation.

So, the amount of data that’s generated and used by vehicle will be in the range of terabytes per day. Now, it varies. We see a lot of different variations and research reports that come out and say it’s 10 TB, it’s 100 TB, it’s 50 TB. It’s somewhere. We believe it will probably be under 10 at some point during the day in the operation of the vehicle. Now, not all that data that is generated will come off the vehicle. In fact, we estimate between about five and 7% once real production begins. But if you think about that amount of data and you think about all the vehicles, and all the OEMs, and all the manufacturers, and all the mobility providers will have on the road in production around the globe, if you think about the amount of vehicles that are produced every year, it’s almost a hundred million per year. The amount of data that will be coming off those hundred million vehicles, you’re starting to look at data sizes from petabytes, to exabytes, and what we call zettabytes is the next level. In fact, OEMs are starting to realize that, that the data that’s being generated will start to even rival and exceed what Facebook and possibly AWS currently possesses.

Bill Pfeifer:
You did talk a fair bit about the data that these are going to generate, and that’s I presume all the high-definition video from the cameras, the LIDAR systems, all the sensors that are embedded throughout the vehicle just collecting data all the time, so it’s going to be a huge amount of data, and especially challenging because it’s in a bunch of cars that are driving all over the world, so we can’t plug them straight into a data center. That means we’ve got to sort through the data that’s on the car, decide what we need to keep, what we want to upload to an edge, or a cloud, or a private data center and what we need to keep on the car, what we can throw away. That’s a huge data management problem. Can you tell us about some of the work that’s happening in that data management space that’s going to help us actually move this data and tag it appropriately, decide what to keep, what we don’t need?

Stephen Davidson:
Sure. Absolutely. And we have done quite a bit of work and I think a lot of the work that we do on a daily basis is around data management. As I mentioned earlier, the amount of data that the vehicle generates ranges wildly, especially in this testing and development era that we in, probably the next three to five years. But because of that, we’re starting to see that some of the OEMs, some of the testing facilities are starting to realize that not all the data will come off, as we mentioned earlier. A lot of it will be held in the vehicle and then some portion will be pushed off the vehicle and uploaded.

We’ve seen, like I said before, about 100 TB down to 300 MB, but any way you slice it, there’s still a lot of data that needs to be moved, prepped, labeled, processed, model, trained, and fed back to the vehicles and eventually stored. When it comes to data management, the work that we’re doing in inside of our go to market teams, specifically the unstructured data or the Dell Technology select teams are really working on the data management infrastructures that are supporting the initial use cases, and those initial use cases are really for ADAS, or advanced driver assist systems, and the test and development areas for autonomous driving. These are the centralized platforms that we’re supporting, and we are putting into place with the OEMs and the mobility providers as they’re starting to build and expand their new test and development environment.

There’s a lot of work that we are doing around the organization and there’s a lot of challenges that are associated with that. But our go to market teams, and the unstructured data, and also the Dell technology select are really working on the data management infrastructures to support the early use cases of ADAS and autonomous driving. That’s where the OEMs in the mobility providers are asking for our assistance and really helping them figure out how to ingest the data, process the data, store the data, but also push it through their deep learning environments, and looking at how our technologies are really helping them scale and process data in a faster way than they can either in a public cloud setting, because a lot of them started to go that way, but a more on premise or multi-cloud scenario, where would they’re able to move the data, query the data, model the data, and then push it back down into the vehicle fleets in the test fleets that are going on today.

For the most part, the unstructured data folks and the Dell Technology folks are doing that on a daily basis. That’s where they’re engaging with our customers. For OCTO, we’re also doing quite a bit of work, but it’s a little bit more on the research side, really looking at the next generation data management technologies and the platforms that will be needed to support the really massive data scale that the OEMs are starting to realize that once they get their fleets into production, the amount of data that is going to come off the vehicle and need to be managed is massive. So, they need new infrastructures, new data management technologies and platforms that they are going to need to support that level.

Bill Pfeifer:
That’s amazing. So, some of that data could at some point be resold for other purposes. I would imagine that with all these cars around, we’re going to start to get high definition video mapping of streets, so like the pictures that Google has on their maps. We used to see those cars driving around with cameras, and that was amazing, and it was really cool to watch, and now many different cars are going to have those cameras and be driving around anyway. We can start to identify road hazards like potholes, maybe watch city infrastructure for signs that they need maintenance. For instance, could we tell that a bridge is heading toward collapse by analyzing video of cars approaching the underpass over weeks, or months, or years? Maybe we can identify criminals and other personal threats on city streets with all these cameras that are roaming around. If some sort of data market could eventually be set up, who would own the data from your car? As I understand it, tesla currently has a contract that says they own all the data generated by their cars even though you buy your car from them outright.

Do you see anything new coming in the area of data ownership?

Stephen Davidson:
It’s a good question and interesting part of the data management world that I think we’re starting to engage with with some of the OEMs. It’s also an area that we’re going to see evolve over the next few years. I think Tesla has done a good job and started the process for helping consumers of their technology and their products to understand what the data opportunity is and who owns that data. If you go through and you read their policy, they do outline exactly what type of data will be used, and where it will be used, and how it will be used. But the good thing is it also gives an opt out. At the end of the day if you don’t want your data use in some form or fashion, you can opt out.

That for me is also an area that is pretty well known. Yes, there is a lot of data that is being processed and owned by the technology firms and the product firms that we engage with on a daily basis, and they’ve set up some pretty decent policies, but I think this is an area that’s going to continue to get scrutinized. When it comes to certain types of data, like personal data, or commerce data, credit card data, that will be part of a profile that’s within a vehicle, that I think at the end of the day will be shared but ultimately owned by the consumer. Those policies that the brands set up with them will makes sure that happens. But there’s also public type of data. You’d kind of refer to it with regards to the city mapping and the data that supports vehicle to vehicle communications that are necessary to help drivers look and see around buildings to understand if there’s situations with intersection problems or what have you.

There is going to public safety use cases that will allow for a lot of data to be shared in the governments and regional departments of transportation. Some of the major policy think tanks are starting to look at what are those use cases. What I think is happening is that the OEMs are relooking at those policies to ensure that they continue to keep the trust of their customers, but also to figure out how they can unlock the richness of their datasets to support use cases like mapping, public safety, vehicle to X, which is vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to pre-destined, and vehicle to infrastructure. They’re also working with companies like Otonomo. Otonomo is an interesting company out of Israel that is set up data mart and management platform to help OEMs set up the data infrastructure that will ensure that they keep the trust of their customers, but also allow them to manage and monetize that data in the future.

I think there is going to be a number of these types of companies like Otonomo that will come in and say, “We’ll help you manage and monetize that data that you’re creating, and we’ll help you protect the ownership in the future.

Bill Pfeifer:
Taking a step back and looking a little bit higher level if and when we achieve fully autonomous vehicles. I’ve seen lots of conversation about will we still own our own cars, or will that be a subscription model, so that conversation has been going on for a while. But looking a little bit farther down, assuming we move to just a straight consumption model. Let’s say Uber takes over the transportation market, or one of the OEMs steps in, or all of the OEMs step in, what else would change? Right? We’d free up lots of space that we used to have occupied by gas stations. As cars can anticipate their fuel needs and plan ahead, we could have fewer stations operated more efficiently. We shouldn’t need parking garages or car dealerships.

If I don’t own a car, my house doesn’t need a driveway or a garage, which changes the way we build cities, and the way we landscape our houses, and things like that. So, what happens with all that infrastructure that we used to devote to buying, maintaining and just having our cars once it’s no longer needed?

Stephen Davidson:
Interesting. The days where the world is filled with fully autonomous vehicles is really still a long way off. Myself and the OCTO team really don’t see production class fully autonomous fleets being rolled out until mid, late this coming decade. Towards the 2027, 28 timeframe is probably when the early fleets will start to happen. Last week my wife asked me, in fact, “Will we ever have autonomous vehicle?” I said, “Maybe.” Will we get to ride one? Yes. Will we own one? Not sure yet. We’ll have to see.
I think the thing about autonomous vehicles and the impact of those has been quite hyped. It’s a marketing thing today. What we’re seeing and if you look at the press and what’s going on from the press releases from the OEMs, they’re realizing it’s really difficult thing to build. Elon Musk is brilliant. He is one of the visionaries of this industry in the last 20 years, 100 years, in fact. They have built a partially autonomous vehicle and it’s on the road today. Waymo is also building these technologies and these fleets, and they have a very large fleet spinning around Arizona. But we’re still a long way off from the moving living room vehicles that don’t come with a steering wheel or other controls. I want to just set the stage there to help say what’s going to happen to the infrastructure. Well, we have a long way to go before the infrastructure is really going to be impacted because the vehicles aren’t going to be there for the next 15 years, at least.

Back to your question for a long time, yes, consumers are going to own their cars. When we do get those fleets into productions, the highly autonomous fleets into production, we do expect the OEMs and the other mobility providers to provide these fleets and provide Uber-like services to consumers. And in fact, many of them already setting up the organizational structures and the partners for them to be already future ready.

Two main reasons that we probably won’t own autonomous vehicles. The vehicles, first and foremost, will be too costly for consumers. Second, it will be more cost effective to consume mobility service versus owning that vehicle outright. But think about it this way, by 2030 the global have about 2 billion vehicles on the road on a global fleet. Of that, we believe about a quarter of those will have high autonomy. I expect that it will take about 20 to 25 years to change over that global fleet to one that is highly connected and highly autonomous. Faster in developed countries, but slower in the developing world. So, when it comes to a support infrastructure, that too is going to take some time to evolve. Are we going to have houses with no driveways or the gas stations going away? Well, yes and no. We’re already starting to see what’s happening on another type of technology, electric vehicles, right? You think about it, when it comes to the supporting infrastructure, that too will take a long time to evolve.

We’re already starting to see that happen at the addition of charging stations. One has to remember that we’re in this new Connected Mobility era because Elon Musk had a crazy idea to build a company to create production grade electric vehicles. He didn’t set out to build antonymous vehicles, he set out to be an electric vehicle maker. The connected and autonomous services are enhancements.

His model has already changed the infrastructure. He sells online, delivers vehicles to your door, has no dealerships, pushes updates and fixes over the air, and also has centralized service centers where they’re really high concentration of vehicles that he sold. It’s definitely a smaller sustainable footprint that if holds true, the other auto makers will start to see a shakeup in the infrastructure they need to provide and also support their own future vehicles. This is going to change the industry going forward. How, it will be pressured just the economic market forces. Partially, it will also be regulatory and we’re just going to have to see how that happens. But at the end of the day, the world still has a long way to go before they start seeing the impact of these new vehicles on their infrastructure and on things such as their driveways.

Bill Pfeifer:
Jumping back into the technologies, how is Dell Technologies aligning with the auto manufacturers as they develop these self-driving, autonomous AI driven vehicle fleets and infrastructure, and what does that mean to our listeners?

Stephen Davidson:
We have many, many teams across Dell Technologies working with our automotive, our commercial truck customers, industrial vehicle making customers, as well as mobility provider customers to help them solve the underlying data management and infrastructure necessary to power their connected, but also ADAS and AD use cases today. We’re also doing this in a multi-cloud approach as well, because they have to build an infrastructure that will scale both on prem, private, and public infrastructures, to enable them to move process and store the exabytes to zettabytes scale data that has been forecasted by many of the OEMs, as well as the providers over the next 10 to 15 years. Managing that massive scale of data requires AI, and with our AI embedded approach within our products and solutions, we’re well aligned to support the customer’s needs to create the right infrastructure that provides the right cost in the right performance ratio that is necessary.

Bill Pfeifer:
Jumping back into more of a future leaning perspective, what’s coming next? What are you working on in the ICV and Connected Mobility space that we haven’t talked about yet?

Stephen Davidson:
Within OCTO, we’re going to continue to partner with our customers on the next generation technology research that relates to a larger data management platform. We’ve got a number of great engineering-based research initiatives already in play with a number of customers that are partnering with us to look at larger data management and data movement issues that are being foreseen coming down the pipe. We will do this work within our labs. Then as this technology starts to mature and we start to build a more structured platform approach or solution approach, we’ll then start to hopefully put that into a deeper level of production with our server teams, or our storage teams, and our data management team over the next few years.

We’re also going to continue to support our go to market initiatives. We’ve developed the white paper that I think we’re provided here that talks about our future platform. But I’m also starting to work on another white paper around the work that we’re doing to support the R&D engineers, and developers, and data scientists within the OEMs who are at the heart of the ADAS deep learning environments, and how our technologies are starting to support all those use cases that are necessary to support the data management and the data movement associated with ADAS systems.

Then lastly, we will continue to support our global and regional marketing teams and go to market teams on their executive management engagement and also their round table plans within region and around the world where they get like-minded customers and technologists together to talk about the challenges of Connected Mobility, and what it takes to build not just the infrastructure needed for today’s test and development environments, but also the next generation infrastructure.

Bill Pfeifer:
Well, I can’t wait to see what comes next that I’m sure our listeners will be paying attention, as well. Stephen, thank you so much for spending the time with us and giving us a view into your world. We definitely appreciate your insights and look forward to hearing more about what will be coming out of the Office of the CTO’s Connected Mobility program over the next few quarters and years.

For those of you who enjoyed this podcast and want to know more about what’s happening in the Connected Mobility space, we have a white paper from Stephen that you can review that has more detail than we covered in the conversation. You can find it www.delltechnologies.com/nexthorizon, along with future podcasts and some other great content from the smart folks at our Office of the CTO.

To our listeners, thank you all for listening to The Next Horizon a Dell Technologies podcast. We appreciate your time, interest, and attention. I hope you’re as excited as we are about the great innovations that are coming out of our Office of the CTO. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast, either through your favorite podcast app or through the website www.delltechnologies.com/nexthorizon so you don’t miss any great new content.

I look forward to seeing you again for upcoming episodes. I’m Bill Pfeiffer and this is The Next Horizon.