BRUSSELS – Technology alone is not enough to roll out connected cars in Europe, auto-industry and European Union experts agree.

The key, speakers say during the “Connected Cars Europe 2017” conference in Brussels, is connecting automobiles to their commercial and social environment and getting all actors on board.

“Connected mobility will only work as an ecosystem based on the collaboration of governments, industry players and industry associations,” Nigel Upton, senior worldwide director-Internet of Things and global connectivity platform at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, tells WardsAuto. Certainly, there is enthusiasm at the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.

“I love technology,” EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc proclaims “Connected cars are transport’s hottest topic and self-driving vehicles are very sexy,” she says, noting their importance in an EC package of transport-mobility reforms, likely to be proposed May 31.

“But whatever the scenarios will be leading to a driverless world in 2045 or 2050, without a basic architecture – networks, services/solutions, applications, data and infrastructure – we will not be able to build the new mobility system,” Bulc tells conference attendees.

“Only by building a broad consensus at a global, European, national and local level will we make the most of the new technologies,” she says, welcoming the cross-border tests of autonomous driving between Germany/France and Germany/the Netherlands.

Cross-sector associations of industry and regulators are an ideal way to promote connected cars, Abayomi Otubushin, responsible for corporate and government affairs at BMW, says. He cites the 5GAA Automobile Assn., founded in 2016 by BMW and others to develop new communication methodologies. “At the end of April, it had 42 members,” Otubushin says.

Thorsten Robrecht, vice president-advanced mobile networks solutions at Nokia, agrees industry collaboration and cross-sector trials and testbeds are keys to innovation. He cites electronic brake-light testing by the European Automotive-Telecom Alliance (set up in September 2016 to promote connected and automated driving in Europe), 5GAA and the Autotech Council, a U.S.-based innovation umbrella group.

Hewlett Packard’s Upton notes that while some media reports have predicted driverless cars as early as 2019, “Most current cars are not on any of the (1 to 5) automation levels (5 being complete automation). Vehicles sold with automation features today are on level 0 or 1, a few on level 2. And companies like Waymo or Tesla are developing and testing cars to achieve level 3.

“We’ll only reach higher levels of automation and safety by connecting the car to its surroundings,” Upton says, “enabling concepts like swarm intelligence or platooning where vehicles coordinate with each other (for example, on traffic signs or road hazards).”

Onboard connectivity (to infrastructure – V2I, cloud/network – V2C/N, vehicle – V2V or pedestrian - V2P) and 5G technology are key enablers for connected-car systems, he says. “Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) involves developing cellular standards for valuable mobility-use cases – for instance, a preceding vehicle can automatically warn vehicles behind it that it has just started to skid on ice,” he tells WardsAuto.

“Going forward, 5G wireless networks will enable a wealth of next-generation V2X applications, but also dramatically increase the amount of processing required throughout the network,” Upton says. “HPE is collaborating with the 5G Lab in Germany (an interdisciplinary research team with 50 connected partners) to develop high-performance computing systems which can consume and analyze data instantaneously to address the needs for the next generation of mobility services.” For Upton, value creation also is essential, providing “data-based mobility services that drivers want to use and industry players want to invest in. Smartphones, tablets and other personal devices represent viable routes to deliver contents and services.

“Safety and practicality-related considerations mean a seamless integration between external infrastructure and the car’s infotainment and powertrain systems will become paramount to deliver drivers and passengers more complex offers.”

Upton further says connected-mobility ecosystems must be made “so compelling that many drivers would want to join them.

“It’s a typical chicken-and-egg situation. Only when there are many, it’s interesting for many. Thus, it’s so important we drive standardization across Europe, as this will create a critical mass of services and users.”

For Nigel Cameron, president of the Center for Policy for Emerging Technologies, a Washington-based think tank: “The biggest challenges to the rollout of sophisticated (connected-car) systems are not technical but in the soft areas of trust and consumer confidence, at the interface with resilience/cybersecurity and data privacy.

“While the industry is putting much effort here, I’m not convinced that it’s sufficiently realistic and determined,” he says.

That said, Antony Lagrange, legislative officer-automotive and mobility industries at the EC’s directorate-general for industry, innovation, entrepreneurship and SMEs, says legislation to keep car data safe is being considered. “But we don’t want to regulate too early, which could hamper the development of new products.”

Highlighting road deaths due to mobile-phone use, Chris Carroll, project coordinator on sustainable transport for the European Consumers’ Organization, asks: “Are we ready for technology? What measures are needed to make it safe?”

And Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA, Europe’s motor-sport industry organization) Director-General Laurianne Krid adds: “Automated cars won’t succeed if consumers don’t understand them. Some people still think ‘connected’ means ‘with a cord.’”

But Cameron nevertheless predicts “a dramatic collapse in the market for private cars as we move to a fleet system with perhaps 90% uptime, even with maintenance, versus current usage which is between 3% and 5%.”

Such a shift would bring huge monetary implications. According to the ESOA (the Europe, Middle East and Africa EMEA Satellite Operators’ Organization), general connected-car revenue forecasts vary from $42 billion in 2020 to over $400 billion in 2025.

Nokia’s Robrecht cites Volkswagen statistics that “By 2020, 50% of a vehicle’s value will be in software,” with the average car containing 150 sensors and 60 microchips.