IoT at the North American International Auto Show

By | 3 minute read | January 10, 2017

leadspace image of car in futuristic city

This week Detroit hosts the North American International Auto Show, where the world’s top automotive experts, designers, engineers and tech whizzkids meet to showcase groundbreaking new designs and share their expertise with the industry. We’ll be there to have a nose at what’s new in connected vehicles.

Over the last few months we’ve been writing a lot about the impact of the IoT on transport: from self-driving vehicles, to the implications vehicle connectivity has for design and engineering. We’ve looked at connected commuting, urban congestion, automated driver aids and lots more besides. So as we gear up for what’s next, let’s take a look at some of this year’s posts, and remind ourselves what the IoT has done for connected transport so far.

Connected cars: an overview

Did you know that more cars are connected to a cellular network than mobile phones? Sharing data with a wider network opens up enormous possibilities for vehicle automation – everything from real-time traffic updates, gas station and car parking alerts, and voice activated user manuals that can tell you exactly why your engine light is flashing, how severe the problem is, and book you into your garage to fix it. Liza Cooper explores the possibilities in her useful introduction to connected vehicles.

The promise of automation

Greater connectivity brings with it a promise of greater automation. The more tasks that can be done automatically, the more headspace for the driver. And to be honest, once you’ve got parking sensors, assisted braking and cruise control, how big a step is it to a completely self-diving vehicle?

The answer is – not as big as you might think. This technology is already being tested on the roads in the form of Olli, the connected shuttle bus that not only drives itself, but can advise passengers about the weather outside, the quickest route to their destination and what to do when they get there.

Making the impossible possible: the story of Sam Schmidt

It’s not a totally self-driving vehicle, but the racing car designed for paralysed driver Sam Schmidt is pretty miraculous nonetheless. Sam’s stellar career was cut short by a devastating crash in January 2000 that left him paralysed from the neck down.

But in 2013 his luck changed, when he met a group of engineers from Arrow Electronics who designed a racing car that could be operated using only the head. Sam could steer just by looking in the direction he wanted to go, thanks to a complex network of connected sensors inside his helmet and the vehicle itself. Take a look at Timothy Chou’s memorable post to learn more.

A PA for your car

For those not ready to go the whole hog in automation, there are some interesting developments in the form of intuitive (and voice activated) driver support systems. These enable drivers to have a conversation with their cars to identify and solve problems, receive traffic updates, or find a parking space in a crowded city. BMW Group and IBM are beginning research on exactly this at the new Munich IoT headquarters: take a look at this post to find out more.

Continuous engineering and predictive maintenance

BMW aren’t the only manufacturer taking on the IoT. Honda are in the connectivity game too. Aided by IBM Watson’s cognitive expertise, the company is investigating the potential of big data in vehicle diagnostics and maintenance. In November, Christopher Cameron posted about Honda’s Formula 1 racing engine, which is equipped with sensors used to send data back to the Watson platform. Honda is using the data to understand how cars and drivers behave in real-world conditions, and to hopefully shave a few valuable thousandths of a second off their lap time. 

Transport in cities

In September, prompted by a miserable London commute, I had a look at the concept of connected commuting. The IoT and smart public transport could cut delays, ensure trains and buses run efficiently and predict and solve potential maintenance problems before they cause widespread fury.

In the same vein, Matt Bellias’ detailed and informative post on urban transportation explored how the IoT can make cities more liveable by easing congestion. He explained how we can learn from the city infrastructure itself, as connected buildings understand occupancy patterns and busy periods and can share that information to help plan transportation around large events.

Connected vehicles ruin movies

Last but not least, connected vehicles were the star feature of two posts in our IoT ruins movies series: IoT ruins Thelma and Louise, and IoT ruins Speed.

What’s next for connected transport? We’ll be back with the answer live from the North American International Auto show.