Jean Leflour, PSA’s senior vice president for connected vehicle, talks about the connected feature of the DS 7 Crossback

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The DS 7 Crossback is the first PSA model to benefit from the platform the carmaker developed jointly with Huawei (Photo: PSA)

PSA Group’s new DS 7 Crossback features a range of new services underpinned by Huawei’s OceanConnect IoT platform. The technology provided by the Chinese telecommunications group forms the basis of PSA’s Connected Vehicle Modular Platform (CVMP). The architecture offers in-car natural language voice recognition, a connected services portal, connected navigation and vehicle and driver information. All can be viewed via smartphone app. Remote vehicle diagnostics and maintenance functions, over-the-air updates and a personal assistant will also be added. The DS 7 Crossback is the first vehicle to benefit from this joint project, which will ultimately be rolled out to all PSA Group vehicles.

What exactly are you building with Huawei?

We are developing an IoT platform that will handle all communication from car to cloud and manage all the data in the car in order to make them available for external service providers through the appropriate interface.

And it can do more than that, I understand.

The platform will also handle a few other services, such as the possibility to perform remote controls in the car. These include locking and unlocking doors, thermal conditioning and other basic functions, but also software updates over the air (OTA). The idea is to decouple the platform layer. This will help us to have cyber security and to provide data privacy to our customers. We’re also decoupling the development of services. That’s because the ecosystem of services you find in Russia is totally different from China or Europe and, with this platform, we can provide the appropriate interface.

There are many communication and technology companies you could partner with. Why Huawei?

Huawei was able to provide the complete solution so that we could also implement the service layer on top of this platform, which is now available for our Chinese customers at the same time as the DS 7 launch. The DS 7 is a flagship of the brand in China, so we had to provide the right level of connectivity services on this car. And everything was developed in a mere seven months.

What kind of IT infrastructure do you need to make the platform work?

Implementing the right level of connectivity is not obvious because you have to develop a complete IT infrastructure if you want to commercialize and operate these services. You have to make sure that your services work and that the customer can subscribe to new services during the life of the vehicle. You really have to build the complete ecosystem of IT tools in order to develop that.

You also need to gather customer and vehicle data and use them in the right way.

Exactly. And that data is coming from a car manufacturer’s customer repository. You need to manage the data and have in place the usual cyber security systems. This all makes it really complex and you have to think about the right IT system architecture right from the beginning.

What kind of tools can you use to differentiate and identify the data that you really need?

It depends on the services you want to provide. And you have to protect the privacy of the customer. For example, you have to anonymize some data to make sure that the customer will not be recognized if he doesn’t subscribe to the right level of services. And, according to the new European data privacy rules that take effect in May, we can only use data that are relevant for a particular service. So, we will use a different repository to connect the services with the data that are requested for a particular service. And of course, we have defined which data is necessary to perform the different services we want to provide.

Can you talk a bit about how you use data in design and engineering?

One example is that it’s sometimes very difficult to understand how often a specific feature will be used. You assume a door lock will be used 300,000 times and it can be completely wrong. We can find out the true usage through the data and that will help us to bring the durability of a feature in line with usage or put the money somewhere else. Connected data will help us do that.

How important is V2X technology?

V2X can help prevent accidents by allowing the vehicle to detect events, say, 500 meters ahead. The other big advantage is that it will help optimize fuel consumption or extend an electric vehicle’s range. If an EV knows a traffic light is turning red, it can go into regenerative mode, for example. The biggest V2X application is, of course, autonomous driving. It will help to make sure driverless cars are safe.

And will we need 5G networks for this?

The big thing that is introduced by 5G is much better latency and the possibility to have car-to-car communication without having to go through the infrastructure. That will allow cars to connect even in areas where there is no 5G coverage. This is very important.

Is your platform and the connectivity it provides another step on the way to autonomous vehicles?

Autonomous cars will need connectivity but are presenting many more challenges to overcome. Each subsequent level of autonomy will require additional safety features. Some of them will require connectivity and some won’t. We have plans until Level 3 and Level 4. Level 5 (full autonomy) presents a very difficult challenge. If you were at CES at the beginning of the year, you will have seen that people are all becoming a little bit more realistic in terms of roadmaps for autonomous cars.

Is your cooperation with Huawei an indication that the auto industry is, in future, going to work much more closely with specialized companies from other industries?

Everybody is sharing and partnerships are key. What we have with Huawei is a important partnership, but we already have many others and will be developing more. We have a partnership with IBM on data management, for example, providing anonymized data to smart city programs. We have partnered to develop platforms for smart services where you can pay your parking from your car or pay your gasoline refill from your car, or pay tolls from your car without having the need for any badge or any specific feature in your car. At PSA, we don’t think that we can develop these things alone. It’s such a wide area of technology and it requires such a broad range of expertise that we need partners. That’s absolutely clear.