So begins a new video from Bloomberg, and it’s an assertion supported by a host of notables, including National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart, Hackrod founding partner Felix Holst, even DARPA Information Innovation Office Director Dr. John Launchbury. For many people observing from afar the gestation of the autonomous car, the expectation has been that such a vehicle will happen sometime in the future. Perhaps not the distant future, but not necessarily in the very near future, either.
Most people are in for a big surprise! Autonomous vehicle tests are underway right now in multiple locations. And not just on test tracks but on the streets of cities like Pittsburgh.
It’s Not just the AI – It’s the Data
What’s coming across as exciting in the video is the importance and value of data in these cars. It’s not merely that a car with an AI controller and a lot of sensors and cameras are taking over the role of a driver; it’s that developers are figuring out how to use all the data from these sensors to create a transportation experience that is both more efficient and safer than what we’ve known in the past.
“Data is the essential element that connects the sensors of the nervous system in the autonomous car with the muscles of the control system of the autonomous car – and that ultimately controls how the car moves through traffic,” says Dave Tang, SVP and GM at Western Digital Corporation. He goes on to say that the ability to analyze and manage that data in real time is going to lead to safer and more consistent travel. Increasingly, cars are able to analyze their surroundings in real time and communicate not just with sensors in the roadway but also with sensors in nearby vehicles, resulting in a more efficient, synchronized and safer form of transportation.
The rate at which autonomous cars capture and process sensor data is significant. At 1 GB/second, a four-hour road trip could generate more than 14 terabytes of data. But where will all this data reside? Not all of this data will be retained, and what needs to be stored long term will eventually be uploaded to cloud storage, but until then that data will need to reside on local storage within the car itself.
Given the varied environments in which automobiles operate – including extremes of hot and cold, wet and dry, smooth and bumpy – NAND Flash is the obvious choice for these storage needs. NAND Flash is fast, mature, cost-effective, and proven. It operates reliably, even in harsh environments. It can provide the storage capacity required to support the data storage needs of autonomous vehicles while taking up minimal physical space in the car itself.
Ultimately, data makes autonomous cars possible, and NAND Flash makes data available on the autonomous car.