For this year’s Flash Memory Summit keynote, we wanted to take both a step back and reflect on flash’s impact on our daily lives as well as a step forward and envision the new opportunities flash can help realize. It’s easy to overlook how much flash has essentially upgraded our lives from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed. Not only does flash speed up applications previously reliant on hard drive storage, but by enabling the existence of technology like the smartphone, the way we work, communicate, and connect looks completely different than it did just a decade ago. Flash has changed the world, but really we’re just getting started.
After Jeff Ohshima, Toshiba Memory Corporation Technology Executive, talked about Toshiba’s latest flash technology, I wanted to illustrate how this technology will not only advance applications and industries themselves, but enrich the lives of people around the world. Yes, flash will get cheaper, denser and more efficient. But what does that translate to in the future? I explored three areas where faster, denser, and more cost-effective flash components and devices will be pivotal: the maturation of autonomous cars, the next billion internet users, and major advancements in medical computing.
Today I’ll focus on autonomous cars…
Autonomous cars are getting a lot of attention lately and for good reason—they have tremendous potential to save us time and also save lives. It is estimated that Americans, on average, waste 42 hours in traffic a year1 (if you live in cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Jose, that number looks low) costing us $160 billion a year in lost productivity, gas, and vehicle wear and tear. And on a worldwide basis, 1.25 million lives are sadly lost in car accidents each year2. These are problems that autonomous cars seek to address.
Today, there are many features to assist the driver that only provide incremental benefits. The true time and life savings will come from full autonomy…think no steering wheel. For this to be possible, the car will need to store HD maps locally and require Terabytes of fast, local storage to respond accordingly in worst case scenarios like downed stop signs, bad weather, and poor network connection.
Take another enabling feature of autonomous cars. They will need the ability to communicate with each other as well as to the network for updates about traffic congestion/incidents, safety concerns, etc. This will place new demands on cell towers and edge data centers to provide real-time analytics and quickly serve that data back to a large number of cars.
So if we look at that from the offerings that are in use today, hard drives are used for the current entertainment/GPS consoles, however as we add more advanced infotainment and autonomous features, that will drive demand for higher performing flash devices:
Source: Internal Toshiba Research, June 2017
Many technologies will be required to make full autonomous cars possible, but flash is a key enabler. By 2050, we could potentially gain back 50 minutes a day and reduce vehicle crashes by 90%3, saving lives in the process.
Stay tuned for part two, focused on the next billion users.
1INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation 2015 Study
2World Health Organization Fact Sheet, May 2017
3McKinsey & Company Report, 2015