Every eight weeks on Thursday at 9 p.m., an icon of German television in 1987: the car test on the program “Telemotor” by broadcaster ZDF. Fast-paced music, dynamic camera work, and quick cuts phase the brandnew Audi 90 2.3 into the picture. The car roars through deep, artificially created puddles on the test track. The camera stops abruptly, and the hard-hitting tester starts in: “In practice, consistent aerodynamics also have disadvantages. Turbulent water heavily soils the body of the Audi and rain or snow falls onto the seats when the doors are opened,” the speaker says in a serious and sonorous voice. No question about it… at that time, it was a statement with high information value for all viewers, but more or less “measured” on the basis of experience, intuition and pure manual work. Today, in contrast, test drives are the real force behind the carefully planned propagation of mountains of data.
The futuristic autonomous vehicles which premium manufacturers are currently developing are becoming more and more complex because all the components communicate with one another and are networked for external access. HD cameras with panoramic view, distance sensors, radar devices, emission sensors, internal microphones: All of these record signals, providing important insights into the quality of the advanced driving functions for the prototype pre-production tests. “These vehicles deliver one to three terabytes of specially coded data per hour,” says Christoph G. Jung, principal architect at T-Systems, describing the changing times – and thus a new challenge for all digitized industrial sectors.
For the companies concerned, it is almost irrelevant whether the number of devices and sensors interconnected by the IoT will be 50 billion or 60 billion by 2020. The immense challenge lies in what their measurement and control units generate in terms of big data, and its subsequent evaluation in real time. This is basically a sort of hunt for digital truffles. If, so to speak, the harvest time of the precious raw data is the commodity, then the valuable commodity must be extracted in the shortest possible time and made palatable; otherwise, the contained information becomes obsolete. In the automotive industry, there are several hundred vehicles that professional test drivers push to the limits around the world and around the clock in multi-shift test track operations – always looking for abnormalities, and always focused on discovering any safety issues in the “thinking” ECU software as early as possible – scrupulously accurate and down to the last bit and byte. Speed, consumption, engine and transmission data, radar scans: Up to 10,000 channels capture data from the car’s advanced sensors, including not just traffic signs and passers-by, but also the driver’s own pupil movements to counteract inattention or fatigue. During the journey, all this information is logged using a sort of “black box” on modern, shock-resistant, solid-state disks, which, at the end of the working day, “only” actually needs to be output at the depot and fed into the evaluation software – actually.