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9 Feb 2023

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How Will the Era of "Data Centers on Wheels" Take Shape?

A car today can be described as a data center on wheels. The then-CEO of Ford Motor Company, Mark Fields, said as much in 2016 when he noted, “We are a technology company. As our vehicles become part of the Internet of things and as consumers give permission to us to collect that data, we'll also become an information company."

This notion is more so when applied to electric vehicles (EVs), which are built with the aim of creating sustainable transportation and addressing the large problem of vehicle emissions. Automobiles produce 27% of US CO2 emissions, around 1.3 billion tons, an amount more than the total emissions of the entire nation of Japan.

Migrating to EVs comes with ambitious goals: according to a new report from the IBM Institute of Business Value, the US aspires for EVs to make up 50% of sales by 2030, and China, Japan, the EU, and the UK are aiming for 100% by 2035. Yet only 44% of automotive executives surveyed expect to achieve these goals, according to the report.

Three Factors Impede EV Growth
IBM's IBV research found three reasons for this lack of confidence by the majority of auto executives that it surveyed:

* A disconnect between consumer expectations and executive perceptions as OEMs define how to price and sell EVs

* The need for stronger ecosystem collaboration to support the charging infrastructure and battery lifecycle required for expected driving ranges

* Continued evaluation as to which new operational competencies companies should strengthen and keep in-house versus those they should outsource or develop in partnership with external parties.

The full report is available for download. The global automobile's direction and execution with EVs is one of the most consequential issues in all of GHG reduction and climate-change abatement programs. At the same time, the worldwide growth of data – estimated to be around 25% a year for the forseeable future – is expected to be driven (so to speak) by change and evolution in the auto industry.

Enormous amounts of digital infrastructure – eg, IoT systems and towers lining major thoroughfares, edge computing data centers to process copious incoming real-time data, the mobile networking required to make this happen – would need to be built to accommodate this change and evolution. The new IBM IBV report questions how, or whether, this era of data centers on wheels will continue to take shape.

Photograph from IBM Institute of Business Value.

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