Automotive Industry Solutions
- Internet of Things making digitial information simple
- Inventory Tracking
- Pay-per-use Information Storage
Future innovations include location-based services (your car warns you that your fuel is low and finds the nearest service station with the lowest prices), as well as urban-area wireless traffic networks (external controls regulate your car’s speed and distance between vehicles to avoid accidents and traffic jams).
“Automotive companies have to meet customers’ needs before they even know they have those needs,” says Eileen Sweeney, vice president and general manager of CSC’s Manufacturing group. “They’re doing this with sensors, embedded software and integrated networks to improve safety and the overall driving experience. Cloud computing will play a key role in every aspect of the industry — from collaborative design tools, to supply chain systems, to sales and service programs.”
There are many good reasons for the automotive industry to go driving in the cloud. Automakers are looking for ways to drive down costs, and IT applications and infrastructure costs are prime targets as companies compete in a rapidly globalizing market (car and truck sales in China surpassed U.S. sales in 2009; Chinese production is expected to eclipse European and Russian totals in 2013).
Mobile, location-aware hardware and embedded software are part of the rolling showcase of technologies available in new vehicles, called Car IT.
Car IT and cybersecurity
Car IT includes all of the embedded systems that control the engine, drivetrain, climate control, mobile communication, entertainment systems, diagnostics, locking and security. It also includes the electronic devices brought to the vehicle by its driver and passengers.
All of these software-based systems require the same type of support and raise the same issues as an IT infrastructure — adherence to development and testing standards, updates and patches, security and privacy issues.
In this environment, the security of a car’s IT systems is critical. Think of the potential impact on an automaker’s brand if car thieves or other malicious individuals hacked into car systems to defeat alarm systems and unlock doors or steal personal information.
“When you’re designing systems for a vehicle, you’re outside of your company’s firewall and infrastructure, so you’ve got to treat those systems like a mobile network and make them self-defendable,” says Jeff Fawcett, a lead cybersecurity consultant for CSC. “It really begins with a security framework that’s trusted, integrated and efficient — then you can add all of the gadgets you want.”
A brave new (location-aware) world
Emerging location-based services enable drivers to share their location with preferred companies in exchange for discounts (as you drive into the mall parking lot, your favorite shoe boutique gives you an electronic coupon valid for 50% off for the next 2 hours).
“It adds a new level of convenience,” notes Christian Kloeppel, head of CSC’s Mobile Business Center of Excellence. “If my car breaks down and I need a ride, all I have to do is call my friend and his car would choose the fastest route to my phone.”
Such services also raise questions about information privacy. Who has access to that information? How is it being used? Apple Computer, for example, recently disclosed that it archives the millions of recorded requests for directions and phone numbers made to its Siri voice-activated iPhone assistant. Apple keeps the digitized recordings for 2 years but said it has no plans to use or sell them.
“Many people spend more time with their mobile devices and cars than with their families,” Kloeppel jokes. “A smartphone is often someone’s most personal possession, and now we’ve combined it with the car.”
Safety and autonomous driving
Technology is transforming the car into an aware, actively engaged peer in the driving process. For example, Google’s fleet of experimental driverless cars, fitted with costly range-finding lasers, has already covered more than 300,000 miles (500,000 km) without an accident.
While Google has no immediate plans to commercialize its driverless car, automakers are already introducing drive-assist technologies into the safety systems of luxury-class models to monitor driver attentiveness, lane control and potential collisions. Hands-free parking assistance is helping owners save lives and avoid fender benders.
What’s the next step in autonomous driving? Cars may relay information about road conditions to the vehicles behind them. A skid on icy pavement or sudden braking ahead could warn other motorists — even those driving other vehicle models.
Social media and sales acceleration
When it comes to selling vehicles, automakers rely on thousands of dealerships around the world to be the brand’s face to the customer. It’s worked that way for more than a century (the first independent car dealer opened in Detroit in 1896), but car manufacturers are now focusing on ways to get closer to the consumer to drive sales of vehicles, parts and services.
“Today’s car buyers are tech-savvy, and they’re looking for a pain-free experience,” says Paul Scott, automotive industry executive at CSC. “For buyers under 30, it’s less about fuel consumption, comfort and performance, and more about the overall shopping experience and the cockpit technology.”
CSC is working with leading automakers on analytics technology that will unlock customer and prospect data from a variety of sources — online vehicle configurators that customers use to pick out the model, color and options; social media mentions on Facebook and automotive blogs; and dealership sales and maintenance records.
Customer analytics, in the hands of sales teams connected by cloud-based tools such as saleforce.com, can result in higher sales of cars and more visits to the service department by loyal customers.
Combined with vehicle-derived performance data collected throughout the life cycle of the vehicle, these analytics can help automotive design and development teams deliver what customers want. In the future, a growing number of sensors in the vehicle will generate real-time analytics that could open the door to unprecedented levels of service.
“Imagine your dealership showing up at your house with a loaner vehicle before your car actually breaks down,” Scott says.