The top technology for cars today isn’t for upping horsepower or dropping zero-to-sixty times. Though cars like the fast and futuristic Ford GT or the brutal 840 horsepower, 9-second quarter mile Dodge Challenger SRT Demon may say otherwise. Before I slide off track with the hot rods, let’s talk about why the big investments in automotive tech are actually going into making connected cars better and autonomous vehicles viable.
Halo cars like the GT and Demon are great for marketing, but sadly they are not the future of the automobile. Highly-connected vehicles are here, and the technology being developed for driverless autonomous vehicles will slowly bleed into them until the steering wheels and pedals disappear. What are the technologies that are driving the metamorphosis? Let’s look at four technologies that will enable the connected cars of the future.
Connectivity – 5G & DSRC
They don’t call them “connected” vehicles for nothing—autonomous vehicles are going to be quite chatty. They will need to talk and listen to other cars around them, road infrastructure like stoplights, traffic notifications, telematics, get updates from manufacturers, and more. This communication needs to be fast and seamless to keep riders safe and traffic moving smoothly. Today’s 4G LTE and WiFi technology isn’t quite up to task, either. The wait for 5G—it could be up to 10 years off—could end up holding up fully autonomous vehicles. But other tech is ready now, like DSRC, or Direct Short Range Communications. DSRC is on the 5.9 GHz band that’s dedicated to connected vehicles, on a bandwidth of 75 MHz with a range of about 1000 feet. This is the tech that will allow cars to “talk” to each other, and in the non-autonomous interim, prevent accidents, injuries, and deaths when integrated with active vehicle safety systems like automatic braking.
Artificial intelligence and Machine learning
First, a quick primer: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are different things. I’m sure you know this, but I didn’t so I’m just putting it out there just in case. Artificial Intelligence is the broader concept of machines being able to carry out tasks in a way that we would consider “smart”. Machine Learning is a current application of AI based around the idea that we should just be able to give machines access to data and let them learn for themselves. Connected cars will have to apply both. Machine learning will be particularly important as connected cars “learn” how drive—in part from their human pilots, and part learning all the variables that can occur on the road and the appropriate responses. The need for this is derived from all the variability that can occur on the road. It’s a huge, open environment and there is no way to account for all of it. Autonomous cars will have to learn and adapt on their own to make it.
Connected cars aren’t going anywhere without telematics. Heck, most of us aren’t going anywhere without Google Maps. Telematics are about much more than getting directions, though. Every connected device that is capable of generating and sharing its locations creates data—and connected cars have to make sense of it all. Products like HERE’s Open Location Platform allow connected devices to ingest, process and analyze data from multiple sources, encoding location-related information for people, places and things and deriving relationships between them. In other words, telematics will help connect all devices with the world around them.
Automakers have always used a bevy of suppliers to design and manufacture the tens of thousands of parts that make up a car. This will be no different when it comes to the underlying technology platforms that enable connected cars and their related services. Platforms as a service (PaaS) for connected devices are specifically tailored to meet the needs of an IoT offering by including a chain of capabilities that begin with hardware sensors, connect to networks and manage data streams, and culminate with tools that allow for rapid IoT application development, and the full array of functionality needed to manage IoT “products”, sell those products to customers, and manage the billing and care those customers will need. Companies like Cisco have made huge investments in PaaS technology for connected cars. Telecoms are developing platforms, too. And Aria provides a monetization and billing solution to companies like Audi and Subaru that help them handle the complex billing and revenue- sharing scenarios that the connected world poses.
This is not even clos to an exhaustive list of the technology that will be needed to enable the cars and mobility solutions that will be on the road in 20 years. It’s still the wild west out there. The big question remains: how will we drag race with autonomous cars? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.