Self-Driving Vehicles Could Easily Overwhelm the Current Data Center Market

Digital infrastructure is woefully unprepared to handle the substantive increase of data self-driving vehicles would generate

DENVER (February 17, 2022)—Auto manufacturers are making unprecedented investments in electric vehicles (EVs) in response to consumer demand and climate trends. Those investments are laying the groundwork for more self-driving or autonomous vehicles, as EV market growth is an important leading indicator for self-driving technology. 

Widespread adoption of self-driving EVs faces several significant barriers including social acceptance, safety and regulatory restrictions. But according to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange, another major challenge that is often overlooked is the monumental impact these vehicles will have on the data center market.

“Self-driving vehicles are expected to generate unthinkable amounts of data that will have a profound impact on the markets for data center storage and computation,” said Jeff Johnston, lead communications economist with CoBank. “And there’s an enormous chasm between the existing digital infrastructure and what is needed to support widespread adoption of self-driving vehicles.”

Without major technological advancements in data computing and storage processes, it’s unlikely the industry will be able to handle the deluge of data self-driving EVs will generate, Johnston added.

The projected impact widespread adoption of autonomous driving EVs would have on data centers is stunning. According to the Automotive Edge Computing Consortium (AECC), self-driving EVs may eventually need to offload as much as 5,000 gigabytes of data per hour of operation. To put that into perspective, in 2020 the average person worldwide generated about 150 gigabytes per day.

Holon Investments estimates the global self-driving fleet could reach 400 million by 2035. Extrapolating these numbers implies the annual global datasphere will surge from 64 zettabytes in 2020 to an eye-popping 10,000 to 15,000 zettabytes in 2035—just from self-driving vehicles.

An abrupt switch to driverless cars is unlikely. The more likely scenario is a gradual adoption as auto manufacturers’ move up the autonomous driving scale (1-5), starting with commercial applications before moving on to consumer use.

However, some local jurisdictions are beginning to allow limited use of self-driving technologies for ride share services. Las Vegas announced that starting this year, it will allow Lyft and Motional to deploy a limited fleet of self-driving, driverless taxis with a full-fledged commercial launch slated for 2023. And Tesla CEO Elon Musk has indicated he expects Tesla will achieve level 4 autonomy this year.

“We have a long way to go before self-driving EVs are adopted at scale, and technology will look a lot different when that happens,” said Johnston. “But even if the current estimates are on the high side, the industry will still likely face major challenges in how data is stored and processed.”

Watch a video synopsis and read the report, Self-Driving EVs Could Overwhelm the Data Center Market. Can the Industry Respond?

About CoBank

CoBank is a $155 billion cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. The bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving more than 75,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.

CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture, rural infrastructure and rural communities. Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and maintains an international representative office in Singapore.

Media Contacts

Julie Davis
Corporate Communications
202-215-1354
judavis@cobank.com

Dave Harding
Knowledge Exchange
262-825-7926
david.h.harding@outlook.com