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Self-driving cars could create 1GB of data a second

And auto sensors may soon schedule repair appointments automatically

July 23, 2013 04:05 PM ET

Computerworld - Self-driving cars, which some experts have predicted will be readily available within five years, will come with a myriad of sensors creating machine-to-machine data at the rate of 1GB a second, according to one strategist.

Mark van Rijmenam, a big data strategist and founder of BigData-Startups.com, believes the sensors in self-driving cars will also will provide great opportunities to spot mechanical problems before they happen -- and even schedule repairs.

Last year, Google CEO Sergey Brin said self-driving cars will be a reality for "ordinary people" in less than five years. Last fall, California's governor signed into law a bill allowing the vehicles on its roads.

Among others, GM plans to introduce a semi-automated Cadillac driving system in 2015.

"With the amount of cars worldwide to surpass one billion, it is almost unimaginable how much data will be created when Google's self-driving car will become common on the streets. But Google is not the only company working on self-driving cars," Rijmenam wrote.

"By 2020, there will be quite a few offerings out there for autonomous vehicle functionality that you can buy at a reasonable price point," said Thilo Koslowski, an analyst with Gartner.

Rijmenam predicts that all car manufacturers are likely working on self-driving cars. Mobileye, a Dutch company that specializes in inexpensive cameras that assist self-driving cars, has raised $400 million.

"The self-driving car from Google already is a true data creator," Rijmenam said in a blog post this week. "It uses all that data to know where to drive and how fast to drive. It can even detect a new cigarette butt thrown on the ground and it then knows that a person might appear all of a sudden from behind a corner or car."

If a self-driving cars does produce 1GB per second, it would, on average will create about 2 petabytes of data a year, according to Rijmenam. He came to that calculation based on driving 600 hours per year in a car, which translates into 2,160,000 seconds or about 2PB of data per car per year.

Koslowski doesn't agree that autonomous cars will produce 1GB of data per second. While large amounts of data may pass between internal components in an automated car, it won't be stored or even shared because the data will only be used by the car for driving purposes.

"You might have a high-end vehicle like a [BMW] 7 series or [Mercedes] S Class producing a [terabyte] of data in an hour that's meaningful and you'd want to analyze to some extent... but it's not 1GB per second," he said.

Nevertheless, autonomous car technology will increase exponentially the amount of data being produced compared to what cars today create.



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