Connected Cars

The Connected Car Is Here: By 2017, All New Cars May Communicate With Each Other

Photo courtesy of Yatuka Tsutano via Flickr.

As with practically all other consumer goods, cars are increasingly becoming connected to the Internet – and each other.

Here’s what the connected car of the (near) future will do for you.

Communicate with other cars

For the last few decades, most cars have been using computers to control on-board systems. But practically none of these computers can communicate with each other.

That is about to change – as early as 2017, the federal government may require all new vehicles to come equipped with Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) equipment.

This will allow nearby cars to send data anonymously between each other over the 5.9gHz band, similar to Wi-Fi but with a range of around 1,000 feet.

By transmitting position, speed, and location to nearby vehicles, it can help notify drivers of imminent dangers or vehicles he or she may otherwise not have seen.

The Department of Transportation estimates that this technology could help prevent as much as 76% of all car crashes.

For now, this technology is only intended to alert drivers, but in the future it might also be able to take control of the vehicle to automatically brake or steer.

Automatic emergency calls

Fitted with a GPS, cellular service, and impact sensors, a car could automatically make a 911 call and send EMS straight to its location.

From 2015, that will be the reality in the EU, as all new cars will be required to have the eCall system installed.

It’s estimated that response time will be up to 40% higher in urban areas and 50% higher in rural areas, saving thousands of lives each year.

The system will cost less than 100 Euros to install.

While the GPS will help track a crashed vehicle, in normal operation it will be in “sleep” mode and so be untraceable.

Self-parking

Using ultrasonic sensors to sense what’s around the car, the latest models from Ford can detect available spaces and park by themselves.

Similar technologies are also being developed by Audi and Volvo, and it’s come a long way since it was first introduced by Lexus in 2006. The latest cars can even park themselves without a driver inside.

Cellular data and “infotainment”

Why bother to tether your smartphone to your car? The latest models come with their own 4G LTE connections, Wi-Fi hotspots, and in-car app stores.

Apps include weather, music streaming, maps, and hotel/ticket finders.

In fact, as the market for connected cars is heating up, tech companies are falling over each other trying to get their software onboard cars.

Concerns

  • Security. In 2013, almost half of the cars stolen in London were electronically hacked into. In other words, security flaws are found everywhere in new vehicles; a serious issue automakers will have to address.

  • Privacy. Another issue that raises concerns for drivers is privacy. If cars are always connected and include GPS services, how can you know you’re not being tracked?

In fact, 20% of cars already collect and transmit “data about engine performance, safe or unsafe driving maneuvers, cellphone or entertainment system usage and location,” according to the LA Times. Expect this to become a major issue in the near future.

  • Safety. While technologies like V2V and automatic emergency calls could help driver safety, a plethora of apps and information relayed to the driver could end up being a dangerous distraction, says the National Safety Council.

Despite these concerns, however, the connected car seems inevitable. It’s already seeing some large investments from tech companies, such the $100 million each from Nokia and Intel.

The demand is also there. According to (pdf) market research by the mobile operator consortium GSMA, 20% of all cars sold globally in 2015 will be connected.

Updated

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Ole Skaar