Tesla CIO Builds IT That Keeps Pace With Its Cars

Jay Vijayan, CIO for Tesla Motors, helped IT evolve into a global organization that is a key enabler supporting the growth and success of the firm's business.

Jay Vijayan, CIO for Tesla Motors

Vijayan: Tesla cars, starting from the Roadster and now Model S, are the first and only true connected cars in the industry. Ours is the only company that can do over-the-air firmware and infotainment updates to our cars for feature functionality upgrades and maintenance. Tesla Model S is a true example of Internet of things in action. The data we collect from the car is used for diagnosis and R&D purposes, to make our product better, and to provide the best service and overall experience to our customers.

CIO Insight: Clearly, Tesla is a bit of big data poster child. You collect petabytes of data from your cars. How do you turn this data into insights and actions?

Vijayan: The data we collect from each car is not that big in size. In fact, it is very small. We do it in an efficient way. Just this number multiplied by the number of our cars on the road is what makes it big, and as the number of Tesla cars on the road increases, it will be huge in the years to come.

We use this data to get meaningful insight on the product and its internal workings and for continuous improvement feedback. Our product engineering teams take this information and work on improvements and prepare a software update for the car. This update—after the quick, efficient product lifecycle process, including rigorous testing, concludes—is sent back to customer cars over the air. Once a customer accepts this update, it is applied to the car seamlessly.

CIO insight: The company has invested heavily in infrastructure to make driving an electric car coast-to-coast easier. These investments have expanded beyond the U.S. How do you stay connected and what data do you collect?

Vijayan: The network of Tesla Superchargers is an important part of the ecosystem that provides the best driving experience to our customers. Tesla Superchargers allow Model S owners to travel for free between cities along well-traveled highways in North America, Europe and Asia. Superchargers provide half a charge in as little as 20 minutes and are strategically placed to allow owners to drive from station to station with minimal stops. Tesla Superchargers represent the most advanced charging technology in the world. It's capable of charging Model S 16 times faster than most public charging stations. 

All of our charging stations are connected to the home network. Our Supercharger teams monitor their efficiency and how they're working. We will know immediately if there is an issue with any of the charging station and can take quick action to resolve it. Many of our Supercharging stations are solar powered. They have solar panels to offset energy use and provide shade. Over the next few years, we plan to cover more stations in sunny locales, with solar canopies, as part of our commitment to the environment.

CIO Insight: Tesla has become a global company. How do you think about managing data across borders where you've expanded? What do you do to ensure that data is secure?

Vijayan: We take data and overall information security very seriously. We have thought through this deep, wide and clearly, and we have a strategy that we are working to implement as we grow globally. At a high level, we will keep necessary data for [a particular] region within that region.

Talking to a few of my CIO peers, it looks like many other companies that had different strategies in the past are now moving to this new strategy. This validates that we have taken the right path from the onset of our expansion.

This strategy also helps us to easily comply with the regulatory and compliance needs of the region and reduce the risk from a security perspective. We have heavily invested in security, in cutting-edge tools to protect data, and by hiring the best security experts and researchers to keep the data and network secure.

This article was originally published on 11-05-2014
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