The emergence of connected infotainment services -- such as off-board navigation, social media integration, music streaming, and in-car Wi-Fi -- is driving the adoption of cloud-based vehicle platforms enabled by embedded or tethered 4G cellular wireless connectivity.
However, more strategic functionality such as OTA for vehicle lifecycle management, analytics and big data for smart mobility and autonomous driving -- and how cars will interact with the wider Internet of Things for services such as vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-home -- will be the key drivers propelling cloud service applications into a mainstream automotive technology.
By 2020, more than 40 million cloud-enabled vehicles will ship yearly, according to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research.
"Despite the numerous benefits of the cloud, including flexibility, scalability, real-time updates and customization, the specific nature of automotive solutions imposes the need for hybrid solutions -- guaranteeing uninterrupted performance when the connection is temporarily lost," said Dominique Bonte, vice president at ABI Research.
On the other hand, vehicle-centric and safety-critical features, such as ADAS and automated driving, will heavily rely on on-board processing due to low latency, availability, and reliability requirements for features such as collision detection with the cloud playing a more complementary role.
ABI believes that it is this delicate balance between on-board and cloud-based service delivery that will constitute the very character of next-generation connected car solutions.
At the same time, the proliferation of cloud computing platforms adds to already growing concerns about privacy breaches and security threats, which in turn impacts safety.
However, the cloud service will likely turn out to be the best possible protection, allowing real-time monitoring and updates, not just for adding or improving features but also to remotely fix security gaps, as BMW recently found.
Inevitably, open source software companies with embedded applications expertise, such as Red Hat along with established telecom vendors and service providers -- such as Ericsson and Verizon -- are positioning themselves as the key providers in this new connected automotive environment.