Autonomous vehicles: data storage is a real problem

Autonomous vehicles: data storage is a real problem

How much storage will be required for the data generated by autonomous vehicles? A question on which nobody seems to agree at the moment in the industry…

Tomorrow, autonomous vehicles will hit the roads around the world . These vehicles will use and generate massive volumes of data through their multiple sensors: cameras, radars, lidar instruments, monitoring tools, etc.

Some models also embed data from the factory, especially for on-board infotainment systems. In fact, systems allowing the storage of this data must imperatively be set up.

At this time, however, it is unclear how much storage space will be required for autonomous vehicle data. And this is one of the big unknowns in this emerging industry.

The consequences of an estimation error can be disastrous . To realize this, just take the example of Tesla and its Media Control Unit (MCU). This touch screen control unit, integrated into the S and X models from 2010 to 2019, is equipped with an EMCC 8GB flash card on which the system firmware is stored.

However, if this firmware weighed only 300MB au in version 1, its size increased to reach 1GB. Customers whose warranty had expired had to replace the MCU card at their expense for $ 3,000 . Now the new Tesla are equipped with a 32GB card.

However, for the time being, no one can agree on the volume necessary for storing data from autonomous cars. According to Mark Pastor of Quantum , autonomous test vehicles generally generate between 5TB and 20TB of data per day. This volume should however be reduced for vehicles operating normally, in real conditions.

For its part, Stan Dmitriev of the Tuxera company developing storage systems for cars, an autonomous vehicle will be able to generate more than 300TB per year or less than one TB per day.

Of course, the volume of data generated is proportional to the level of autonomy of the vehicle (between 0 and 4). According to Dmitriev, an L2 level vehicle will be limited to around 25GB per hour or 0.3TB per day.

At the CES in January 2020, Seagate revealed that a vehicle equipped with its Renovo software can generate up to 32TB per day . This data will be collected and stored at the edge of the network (edge) before being transferred to the Cloud.

Thus, depending on the experts interviewed, the estimates vary from 5 TB to 32 TB per day . Suffice to say that no certainty exists to date on the subject.

Autonomous vehicles: what type of data storage system?

The second question that arises is “how” to store this data. The storage can be centralized, distributed, or hybrid .

In the case of a distributed architecture , storage will be necessary for each element. In a centralized scheme, all the data will be gathered on the same support. Finally, a hybrid system would be based on both a central device and multiple third-party devices.

In general, autonomous vehicles will also be connected remotely with a third party such as the manufacturer or a fleet operator for example. The data will be transmitted to this third party, which will also send information such as traffic alerts to the vehicle.

However, the data must be stored inside the vehicle. For good reason, the car will need access to real-time data to make decisions such as braking in the event of an obstacle. In addition, a breakdown of the communication network can never be excluded.

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According to Seagate estimates with high data generation at 32TB per day, a capacity of 960TB will be required to store the data over a period of 30 days before erasing it.

Obviously, a hard drive is not a suitable medium for the vibrating environment of a car and wide temperature differences. In addition, this type of system may be too slow to retrieve the data necessary for immediate decision-making.

It would therefore be better to turn to flash storage , which is significantly more expensive. A 960TB SSD would increase the cost of the vehicle by tens of thousands of dollars …

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