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Technology trends driving the future of mobility

The ECCT's Automotive committee hosted a lunch with guest speaker Michael Bultmann, Managing Director of HERE Deutschland GmbH, a leading provider of location intelligence solutions for consumers and businesses across a wide variety of industries.

HERE has been developing digital mapping for 30 years and, through its Open Location Platform, is enabling an open environment for the development of advanced technologies to pave the way towards the autonomous future. Its maps are used by GPS hardware and car makers and numerous service providers. According to Bültmann, HERE provides services to nearly all global OEM brands as well as many market-leading brands such Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook and four out of every five cars in Europe and the United States use HERE maps.

The Open Location Platform provides vehicles and other connected devices with access to a mapping infrastructure that is constantly evolving to mirror changes in the physical world. For autonomous vehicles specifically, HERE is developing real-time high definition (HD) mapping that is accurate to the centimetre-level to support vehicle localization and guidance. These live HD maps can be constantly updated via the collection and sharing of vehicle sensor data, which is processed and analysed by the platform using advanced algorithms and machine learning to generate alerts, warnings and other guidance, which can be distributed to the vehicle fleet in near real time.

For example if the road is slippery or if there is an accident or heavy traffic, sensors in the car would detect objects on the road, which would be analysed and shared with other vehicles. Another example would be making inferences from the use of windscreen wipers. If one driver has her wipers at the highest speed, this could be a mistake. However, if multiple drivers have their wipers on, this would signal heavy rain, information which would be passed on to vehicles further behind that they should prepare for heavy rain and slow down.

The development of location-based intelligence is just beginning. If we know the needs of users, it is easier to design the business models to cater to these needs. HERE is working with many start-ups looking to develop new business models and services based on analysing big data.
It is already clear to car makers that rather than just making cars, the future direction is towards becoming mobility providers, that is, providing mobility services to cater to the variety of mobility needs of users at different times.
The increasing urbanisation of the planet will require a much better use of data to reduce the number of parked vehicles and congestion. Given already overcrowded cities, the old model whereby almost everyone owns a car and which is parked most of the time, will clearly not work.
Data from cities, sharing services and cars needs to be pooled into one single system that can link people, places and things. However, one major problem to overcome is that today most data is in silos, owned by either public or private entities, that is not shared. For example if real time information on traffic lights were to be shared, it would be possible to design solutions to redirect and smooth traffic flow and thereby reduce commuting times and CO2 emissions.

According to Bültmann the speed of current LTE technology is already fast enough to provide necessary data in real time for autonomous vehicles. However, there is not always sufficient LTE coverage.
On the subject of electric vehicles, Bültmann said that there was a lot of focus on the problem of range anxiety but this could be solved if intelligent, real-time solutions are developed that take into account everything from the number of people in the vehicle (weight), how the driver is driving, the traffic and weather conditions, charging stations, service and payment details. HERE has already developed such a solution with partners that properly analyses all the relevant data and guides vehicles to the next most optimal recharging station, thereby removing the problem of range anxiety for users.
On the status of autonomous vehicles, Bültmann said that technology is already advanced enough for level 3 autonomy (able to completely shift "safety-critical functions" to the vehicle) on highways, although not in cities. The issue now is not the technology but whether or not authorities and users are ready for it.
Bültmann speculated that level 5 (fully autonomous vehicles) is probably about 10 years away, although the process could be sped up with more test beds to experiment with various scenarios and fine-tune the various technologies accordingly.

On a question from a guest on the subject of privacy and data protection, Bültmann said that data does not need to be protected, only a person's interests. He explained by citing the example of data on the seating position of a driver and the music she is listening to while driving. While a person's musical tastes are a matter of privacy, which should be left to the user as to whether or not to share, their seating position has no bearing on privacy and should be shared along with similar data. He went on to say that there needs to be a broader discussion on what and how data may be shared and how we give permission for sharing. Given that there are so many items of data that may be collected and useful for big data analysis, it would not be practical to have to ask permission every time. We need more practical ways to set and give permissions for sharing data.

Bültmann also stressed the importance of cooperation and collaboration among various industry stakeholders to develop the necessary platforms to ensure a future where safe, efficient and affordable mobility is available to all citizens.