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Three years ago, Category 5 Hurricane Irma was quickly approaching the coastline of Florida — forcing many evacuees to frantically join long lines at gas stations to fuel up as they fled north. At the same time, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk announced that the company would boost the range of its cars, enabling Tesla owners to travel further out of the range of the storm. This was accomplished by temporarily providing access to additional reserve battery power. All of this was accomplished 100% remotely, without the need for support agents to troubleshoot with car owners or the need for owners to bring their cars into the dealerships. Tesla provided this vital temporary “enhancement” to Tesla owners for other hurricanes in the past and will probably continue to do so with future natural disasters.  

Tesla has fundamentally changed the notion that when you drive your car off the showroom floor, your car is static — challenging the notion of “what you see is what you get.” Traditionally, when purchasing a car, all of the performance options, entertainment features, and other “bells and whistles” were — for the most part — set, never to change. 

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For example, three months into owning a Tesla, I received a software upgrade that “boosted passing power by 15%.”  The latest upgrade brought the side cameras online, adding to the existing rear-facing camera to provide a full 180-degree rearview. It’s interesting that the 180-degree rearview feature did not even exist when I bought the car. It was a new feature that Tesla developed and distributed to both new and existing customers. This is just one example of how cars are now getting more “connected” and emulating many of the characteristics of software-as-a-service (SaaS). The connected car is enabling multi-directional information sharing between the driver, the auto manufacturer, and an expanding ecosystem of partnering companies.  

Enabling connected cars with APIs

There are four key capabilities within connected cars that are supported by APIs. Those capabilities are:

1. Car app

With a car application, owners can remotely carry out simple tasks — such as lock or unlock the doors, control the charging, and turn on the air conditioning before entering the car. In addition, the car monitors various operational parameters, such as tire pressure, battery health, impact, or intrusion. Some cars are even enabled with the self-driving option, which allows the parked car to drive to you. Such features allow the manufacturer to truly differentiate the post-sale experience and build customer loyalty by adding new capabilities

2. Infotainment

When one combines “information” with “entertainment,” you arrive at “infotainment.” This term was coined to describe the primary UI of a vehicle, controlling most of the non-driving functions such as stereo, navigation, as well as heating and cooling. Auto manufacturers have integrated smartphone capabilities via Bluetooth so drivers can make calls and give voice commands. As car infotainment systems become more sophisticated, secure vehicle APIs made available to third-party developers will result in apps made specifically for the car’s UI, enabling a more pleasant and safe experience for the driver.   

3. Commerce

As drivers become more accustomed to in-car connectivity, many will want to shop directly from their car. Fast food vendors could offer apps that allow quick and easy order and pick-up like they already provide on smartphone apps. Eventually, this could expand to grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers that sell common brand items that don’t require in-person comparison and inspection. A secure API gateway would allow the external transfer of sensitive customer contact, payment, and location data to the vendor. For example, Jaguar has partnered with Shell to offer automated payments at gas stations.  

4. Security by design

APIs will soon manage most of the data, not only of the eCommerce transactions but also the vehicle’s functions. In July 2015, two hackers turned off the transmission of a 2014 Jeep Cherokee as part of an experiment for Wired magazine. This is why data transmitted via IoT sensors must be secure.  Oftentimes, real-time data from IoT devices must then be combined with data in back-end systems to provide analysis or action. Systems, databases, IoT devices, and mobile devices must all be integrated in a secure and scalable manner for this all to work.  

The future of car connectivity

There is still a lively debate whether the world will move toward autonomous cars or ride sharing — and it’s unclear how the pandemic will impact commuting, public transportation, and car ownership. Regardless of the business or usage model, cars seem destined to become more electric, intelligent, and connected. 

In 2015, roughly 35% of cars sold in the U.S. were connected. By 2025, almost all cars sold are expected to be connected. In 2017, 10 million connected BMW cars generated, on average, 600 MB of data per day. For more advanced connected cars, the average daily data flow is expected to increase to over 1 GB per day. New monetization models will result from this exponential growth in data.  

There are several routes to monetization, according to a McKinsey study on the monetization of car data. Services such as Sirius and Spotify make it clear that customers are willing to pay for features that add value to their experience. This willingness for paid features varies from 73% for predictive maintenance to 42% for connected navigation services, mainly due to the availability of free GPS apps.  

Automotive OEMs will have to drastically modernize their technology infrastructure to securely manage data to/from vehicles, off-load critical real-time analytics through API gateways to third parties.  

BMW is a strong example of an automotive OEM leveraging APIs to integrate and provide a seamless experience throughout the customer journey. Rene Wies, BMW’s VP of Group IT, Sales, and Marketing explained how Anypoint Platform interconnects systems, databases, and devices so all relevant employees can assist their customers. BMW’s CarData platform is architected in “layers” based on the sensitivity and source of the data. Data related to driver functions and assistance is the most secure. The next layer deals with infotainment and heating/cooling of the interior. The outermost layer deals with more external functions such as charging, mobile apps, and smart home. These layers are then connected to BMW’s IT backend systems. The use of APIs and layers of security means the data is secure, but can also be shared appropriately with trusted third-party partners.  

A flexible API gateway

The connected car ecosystem creates new and complex development, security, and integration challenges. API gateways will continue to play a critical role in how data is facilitated across this ecosystem

While API gateways are a standard part of API management, the API gateway included with Anypoint Platform has a distinguishing feature: it is capable of being deployed anywhere — on-premises or in the cloud. This flexibility leads to faster deployment of services; the gateway leverages whatever governance policies you set in API Manager. This means that security and other policies can be applied as you choose.

Having unified API management and integration platform allows you to manage users, monitor, and analyze traffic, and secure APIs with ordered policies in one place. Anypoint Platform’s unified capability enables API management for every connection with a single runtime that can be deployed as an integration engine and an API gateway. 

To learn about how to manage the full lifecycle of your APIs, download our API management ebook.