The Car as a Data Center: Using Autonomous Vehicles as a Platform for Distributed HPC

Jack Pouchet •

Find out how the computing power on the autonomous vehicles will turn them into data centers and what critical infrastructure will be needed to sustain them.

For those who choose to own autonomous vehicles in the future, and there is the strong potential for third-party owner/operators providing transportation as a service, the sheer volume of on-board compute capacity combined with high-speed networks (5G and dedicated fiber) may create a business environment where idle vehicles become data centers for hire.

Idle Vehicles, Idle Processors – Data Center Compute Power, on the Road.

Now, that may sound a bit radical, but when you consider that the non-autonomous motor vehicles of 2018 have upwards of fifty processors onboard already, you start to see the potential.

The processors in today’s vehicles are lower-power than required for autonomous operation and the trend is toward ever more CPU and data transmission capacity within motor vehicles. Intel estimates an autonomous vehicle will generate roughly 40 TB of data for every eight hours of driving.

This may soon give rise to the truly mobile data center. With autonomous vehicles combining tremendous data crunching power within their CPUs combined with a staggering amount of read-write memory and high-speed data transmission via 5G and fiber (depending upon location / dock status) they will soon become the near equal to a critical infrastructure such as a 4 to 8kW HPC node rolling down the highway.

These autonomous vehicles represent a fair amount of compute power. Individually they make a fantastic home entertainment, compute, and gaming center all-in-one. Put ten or more of these together on a network and you have some serious computational power. Enough to run a small to medium business or local government agency. Put a few hundred or more together in a local network and you have a data center for hire.

Tapping into the Power – The Mission-Critical Infrastructure for Charging.

With autonomous vehicles likely being 100% electric (see California), the next step in the vehicle eco-system will be the charging station combined with some local compute capacity, an AI or machine learning control system, and massive data transfer pipes combining 5G and fiber.

These dockcharger stations will pop up in locations where the parking areas are vacant in off-hour periods. Imagine shopping centers, commercial office spaces, and even government buildings with these new, mission critical infrastructure facilities ready to receive autonomous vehicles on a pre-determined (or emergency for a high premium) schedule.

With hundreds or perhaps thousands of vehicles docked on a local network the computational power will be staggering. We will see a new financial model where the autonomous vehicle becomes a data center for hire. Your car could become a valuable computational asset in a very wide mesh network earning you a revenue stream from an IT or colocation provider or perhaps a free energy allowance from the local utility who will now also be an IT service provider.

  

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