AT&T racks up IoT auto deals but isn't naming winners in autonomous car technology

AT&T is supplying its network and IoT solutions to help power Cat Connect, Caterpillar’s IoT technology and services toolkit. (Image: Monica Alleven/Fierce Wireless)

BARCELONA, SpainAT&T announced a slew of IoT-related initiatives it’s working on, including a deal to supply asset connectivity for Caterpillar in 155 countries, but as for which technology ultimately ends up powering the autonomous car, that’s yet to be determined.

AT&T is a member of the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), which is working to promote the cellular-based C-V2X technology and its evolutionary path to 5G. AT&T was elected to the 5GAA board last year, along with new board members Jaguar, Land Rover, NTT DoCoMo and Samsung Electronics. Other members include BMW Group, China Mobile, Qualcomm, Ericsson, Ford, Nokia and Huawei, to name a few.

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But AT&T alone isn’t in in a position to name which technology ultimately wins, according to Mobeen Khan, AVP of IoT Solutions at AT&T. DSRC is another technology that’s in the running, although it’s been in development for decades and has not officially been mandated.

“It’s too early to say it’s going to be one technology over the other,” he said. But AT&T is working with OEMs, ecosystem partners and others as the network becomes ever more important in the connected and autonomous cars. And 5G definitely will provide a lot of the low latency capabilities and high capacity that will support autonomous vehicles.

Meanwhile, AT&T is working with OEMs and Michigan's American Center for Mobility, where it serves as the center’s exclusive cellular network provider through 2020. The center acts as a test bed for V2X and connected and automated vehicle (CAV) solutions and validates the interoperability of connected car and smart city solutions to ensure everything can “talk” to each other.

The connected car space has been a big business for AT&T for a while now, with 17 million cars on its network, and it’s continuing to see growth, adding anywhere from 1 million to 1.5 million vehicles each quarter, according to Kahn.

Specifically with Caterpillar, which has some of the largest numbers of connected assets in the markets where they serve, AT&T is supplying its network and IoT solutions to help power Cat Connect, Caterpillar’s IoT technology and services toolkit.

The solution will deliver near real-time information to Caterpillar, its dealers and customers about their equipment’s performance on a job site, which is expected to lead to all kinds of efficiencies and safety improvements, not to mention saving time and money. “It’s a major, major rollout for us,” Khan said.

In addition to Caterpillar, AT&T recently announced a collaboration with CarForce on a car maintenance solution and the integration of Geotab’s fleet tracking platform with its own IoT platforms. It’s using the Geotab tracking system on its own fleet of more than 80,000 vehicles, getting data to track and reduce idling time, optimize routing, improve mileage, save fuel and, ultimately, reduce carbon emissions.