The car you own defines who you are – The phrase was probably relevant a decade ago, now smartphones have taken up that mantle of pinning a name on their users. Auto manufacturers, as you might imagine, are not happy with this, and there’s a widespread wave to bring the car into the smartphone age.
Enter the connected car. From letting you access the Internet during your daily commute to driving you to the airport all by themselves. The future of transportation is clearly in sight, and it’s going to be a big part of the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution.
According to Telefonica’s ‘Connected Car Industry Report 2014’, the overall number of vehicles with built-in connectivity will grow from 10% of the overall market to 90% by 2020. It isn’t even hard to imagine such numbers especially since technology giants Google, Apple and Microsoft are getting in on the game.
Cars & IoT : The First Step
It’s already becoming common place to find in-car infotainment systems that can connect to a user’s smartphone, particularly to gain access to the internet to power maps, internet radio and access other data stored on hand-held devices. The concept will evolve into cars being standalone devices that are perpetually connected to the internet, indicative by the fact that Google’s next iteration of Android Auto will be more of an OS for cars than a bridge between smartphones and dashboards.
The move will also open up a gateway for car manufacturers to stream a lot more data to and from cars, helping with diagnostics and even rolling out software updates that improve efficiency. We can already see a glimpse of such technology in Tesla’s Model S.
Moving Beyond Checking Your Facebook Feed
As cars get hooked to the Internet, they’re going to begin talking to each other – or so we’re told. It’s not hard to imagine heads up displays (HUDs), just like Google Glass, serving up drivers with relevant information about the road and drivers ahead of them, improving safety.
In-car driver aids will also be hugely benefited by this, as information about road conditions etc can be streamed from one car to another – doing cool things such as killing speed automatically when slippery conditions are detected. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication is the link that will help auto manufacturers achieve the holy grail that is the self-driving car.
Full-Blown Self Driven Vehicles
Contrary to what many of the big guns in the self driving race may claim, don’t expect your car to replace your chauffeur by 2020. It will take a bit longer than that, but will eventually happen. With the right mix of technology, policy and user trust, you could be barreling down the highway or city streets, sipping a coffee and reading the newspaper instead of paying attention to the road ahead. In the run up to complete and true autonomy however we will see cars getting smarter in ways that they assist drivers in certain scenarios.
There’s already adaptive cruise control on many cars, using a range of sensors (LIDAR by Google, Radar by Mercedes Benz) that sense obstacles and other such things. The key is to develop software that makes sense of all this data, while also being frugal enough to adapt to ever changing road conditions.
While the future for connected cars may seem dandy, questions about privacy, data security, ownership, etc have to be answered. Just the stereoscopic cameras on the front of a self-driving car generate gigabytes of data every hour.
Where is this data saved and what does a company do with it? Further the implications of removing humans from the drivers seat also opens the door to a potential nightmare for insurance companies and governments in the case of a crash. Unless all these questions have valid answers, autonomous vehicles are likely to remain grounded, which is why their roll-out by 2020 doesn’t seem like a viable timeline.
What are your thoughts?
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