Hyundai and Cisco drive towards the connected car

Hyundai and Cisco are working on a hardware platform for their connected car concept, along with secure, high-speed connectivity via Ethernet and modes of data collection to comply with regional regulatory rules.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

A year into their connected car partnership, Cisco and Hyundai are working towards developing a hardware platform for smart vehicle solutions, bringing high-speed connectivity into the car via Ethernet, and implementing end-to-end security.

Speaking at Cisco Live Las Vegas, R&D director at Hyundai Motor Company Paul Choo said the car maker's aim is to move from reactive response to customer demand to a proactive response to market.

"We're seeing a higher demand for more sophisticated network architecture infrastructure in vehicles," Choo said, adding that the Cisco partnership is unique in that the two companies are working "shoulder to shoulder" in bringing their respective sets of expertise to develop the platform and architecture for the connected vehicle.

"The partnership with Cisco will definitely help us accelerate the adoption of technology."

While Choo said the exploration of new technologies by companies in Silicon Valley is appealing, the more important thing is to focus on actual adoption and production.

"Whenever a new tech is validated, [our R&D strategy is to] immediately transition that into a production phase and get that out into the market," he said.

One of the main projects Hyundai has worked on so far is improving and replacing the current Bluetooth smartphone-to-car connectivity that Choo described as being dangerously distracting for drivers.

Hyundai has thus partnered with Google and Apple to develop alternative smartphone integration technology where a phone screen is projected onto the car screen, with distractions isolated and only essential features portrayed, which Choo said has received good feedback from customers.

In Hyundai's partnership with Cisco, however, the companies are focusing firstly on opening up the car with higher-speed Ethernet connectivity rather than any specific connected car features, Cisco Connected Car VP James Peters told ZDNet.

"We're working on probably more infrastructure things right now ... trying to get that full connectivity so that we could start to move the traffic around more efficiently," Peters told ZDNet.

"We'll be able to get the telemetry data, lock that down with security, tie it end to end through the vehicle, really trying to open up the vehicle so we can start to take the share processing and create more central computing."

Peters added that Cisco and Hyundai are aiming to make five- and seven-year software updates compatible across any hardware being implemented within the vehicles in order to future proof them.

"Right now it's about opening up the car, it's about driving down some costs, but adding in features in terms of over-the-air updates and functionality, increasing the speed inside the car to move that data, putting some compression in there to make it efficient," Peters explained.

"It all kind of plays into where we'll be going with machine learning."

Such a model would fundamentally change the relationship between car manufacturers and customers by bringing auto makers into constant contact with the customer as they repeatedly improve cars after sale, Choo said.

Hyundai, which has said it expects fully autonomous cars to be on roads by 2030, will also collect data on how each customer is using their vehicle to determine which features should be de-prioritised or improved.

In addition to future-proofing the vehicles, the companies are also working to ensure that features are compliant with regional regulatory controls by allowing for different forms of data to be collected according to any rules across the world.

"We're developing a flexible platform where it can actually dynamically configure which data should be sampled and at which rate it should be connected for government bodies," Choo said.

Peters added that Cisco is working on vehicle-to-vehicle technology to ensure compatibility globally with other car brands, but said it's likely that there will be "a fairly standard set of capabilities" and connectivity on all vehicles.

Cisco is currently in talks with "radio players and 5G folks" to look into connection and management technologies; Hyundai has also been speaking with telecommunications carriers, but with less positive results as, according to Choo, car makers have less bargaining power over cost considerations. However, thanks to economies of scale, he said data plans will become more favourable in future.

Hyundai and Cisco first partnered on connected car research in April last year, after the former came up with a "hyper-connected and intelligent car" development roadmap.

At the time, Hyundai said its short-term focus would be on bringing smartphone connectivity and smart home services to vehicles, with future plans for smart remote maintenance services to diagnose and repair vehicle issues, a connected mobility hub to combine all of its smart features, smart traffic controls to reduce congestion, and lastly autonomous driving.

Hyundai then extended its agreement with Cisco in November, with the two co-developing connected cars solutions aimed at the Chinese population by collecting car information and social data in China. Hyundai said it would be building a connected cars datacentre in Guizhou, China, as part of the arrangement, which is expected to be operational this month.

Cisco's cloud-based IoT platform Jasper also already powers nearly every connected car in the world, the company told ZDNet earlier this year, with more than 50 auto brands globally using Jasper's control centre.

One such auto maker using Jasper's platform is Honda, with the companies announcing in February that their MyHonda Connected Car platform would provide connectivity, network coverage, and telematics, using sensors to improve maintenance scheduling, vehicle information and diagnostics, and location-based notifications for Honda owners across Europe.

Connected roads across Australia

Cisco is also working towards connected vehicles across Australia, with Barry Eisnig, global transportation executive for Cisco's Enterprise, Vertical Business Solutions, telling ZDNet that Queensland and New South Wales are the most exciting regions to be working on.

Cisco is working at the state, federal, and international levels in order to ensure a unified deployment of connected cars and roads, with a goal of building commonality across the globe.

"There's two efforts going on in Australia: One is at the AustRoads level, kind of a national level. At the national level, what they want to do is they want to coordinate with other countries because we don't want ... different levels of connectivity and security," Eisnig told ZDNet during Cisco Live Las Vegas.

"It's a very complex environment for an automobile manufacturer, but also for a state regulatory agency, because then how do you then certify these, how do you test these things, how do you know what levels they are if everything's different? So our goal is to work with the national government to align."

Australia has the benefit of being able to take the best of both the European and United States standards for connected vehicles, Eisnig said, with Cisco's goal to build and test architecture to provide certainty on the high availability, low latency, security, and safety of the systems to governments.

According to Eisnig, Australia's states are competing on being first with connected and automated vehicles.

"Probably the two most interesting to me are New South Wales and Queensland," he said.

"New South Wales seems to be moving exceedingly quickly to kind of figure out the infrastructure and put things in place. Queensland has got a lot of infrastructure already, so the good news for both agencies is this is not new infrastructure in every case, it's really sort of reusing some of your existing infrastructure, redesigning some of that infrastructure so that it can accommodate that high volume, that transaction volume."

Much of that existing infrastructure was built without connectivity in mind and now has to be updated, he added.

"It's not that we write the end applications, but many of these software applications have lived in the environment for a long time; they're systems that are not IP native, they don't have functional security built into them, and you sort of have to bring those systems with you because those are critical systems that are already in place," Eisnig explained.

"So whether it's the weather systems, whether it's the loop detectors, or traffic signal lights, or camera technologies, bringing all that together and then helping to translate it so you don't have to replace it all are sort of the areas where we're really focused on.

"So it's the connectivity, the security, and then we call it the data normalisation, so we can use all the data."

As such, Cisco is focused on enabling datacentre, cloud, and wide-area MPLS networking services, followed by connectivity to the roadside itself. Smart applications can then be built on top of that.

Cisco globally launched its "internet for cars" solution around two years ago, with two of its products being fog and speed sensors.

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Cisco Live in Las Vegas as a guest of Cisco

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