Connected vehicles: Transforming the world
The connected vehicle is transformative. It changes the way we do engineering, the way we do business and how and where we are connected.
Connected to what?
Today when we talk about connected vehicles, what we are talking about is the instrumentation and communication of vehicles to external systems. This could be your mobile device, smartphone or tablet, another vehicle (V2V) or a component of an intelligent transportation system (V2I). This inter-connectivity is commonly referred to as vehicle to everything or V2X.
There are many reasons we want to establish this network, and I will highlight just a few of them in this blog post.
Let's start with the most important reason: safety! There are many safety-related situations we could discuss, but I will just give one example. Let's say you're driving your car and you approach an intersection. You have a green light, and since the traffic is relatively light you are optimistically breezing toward the intersection. At the same time a young man, let's call him Aldo, Aldo Lescent, is meandering down the sidewalk, his nose buried in his smartphone, headphones on and Mozart blaring into his ears. That's what teenagers are listening to these days, right?
To complicate this scenario a bit, let's put a line of gourmet food trucks end-to-end along the curb, effectively obstructing your view of the poor, unsuspecting teen. Too engrossed in the latest issue of The Economist and unable to hear the oncoming traffic, he steps into the street and right in front of you. The outcome in this scenario is not good for either of you.
So let's rewind the scenario! And this time, let's equip both the vehicle and the smartphone with dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) and a monitoring application. DSRC is a short-to-medium range, two-way communications capability. This time, as vehicle and pedestrian approach the intersection, both are notified of the other's approach by an intrusive visual and auditory alert. This allows you to safely stop your vehicle and the young lad to proceed blissfully on his way. Tragedy averted! Whew!
OK, so what if I told you that you could have content delivered streaming to your vehicle. And I am not talking about music and talk radio. As a matter of fact, this capability is already available in many cars today. Most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) already provide the ability to have in-car apps running on the in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems. This trend is going to continue and this capability will become more pervasive. The offerings will also become more compelling as more service providers come online and 4G deployments grow.
No more handing off of smartphones and tablets to the kids so that they can watch their favorite movie and make an inadvertent purchase. The content will be streamed directly to your IVI system. This is just one example of what is possible, and because this connectivity continues to grow, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Now I am excited!
But wait, there's more! For me, the most exciting aspect of the connected vehicle is as an enabler for autonomous vehicles. That's right, cars that drive themselves! Subsets of fully autonomous driving already exist in production vehicles: adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, park assist and more. These all belong to a group of features called advanced driver assistance systems. They give partial control of driving the vehicle to the car.
In nonproduction scenarios, we have Google's heavily instrumented fleet of self-driving cars, which are able to drive fully autonomously. To date, they have racked up around 750,000 miles. That's enough for a round-trip to the moon plus another one-way trip!
From apps to infotainment to driverless operation, the connected vehicle is an instrumented and intelligent system of systems. Is it any wonder that we call it transformative?
If this is as exciting to you as it is to me and you'd like to continue the conversation, you can find me on Twitter @r_felice.