How Life on the Road Can Be Affected by Connected Cars

Connected cars, best described as vehicles which can communicate with external networks (other vehicles and devices) to transmit specific information, are already on the road. But the technology advancements have not reached maturity yet.

Most of the smart cars available on the market right now are equipped with parking assist, adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance, but there are a lot of other things they could do.

For example, basic vehicle-to-vehicle ADD (V2V) will allow connected cars to communicate among them, so that drivers can avoid not only accidents but dangers on the road as well, such as:

  • A kid who chases a ball onto the road;
  • A person who opens the car door while being parked;
  • A vehicle which merges into your lane or stops suddenly in front of you;
  • A slippery road surface after heavy rain.

Its one of the reasons why the United States Department of Transportation proposed a rule at the end of 2016 which states that all new cars should have the V2V technology.

Anthony Foxx, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, says that these technology systems would provide a 360-degree overview of the environment and it represents one of their plans to reduce non-impaired crashes to up to 80%.

Gartner predicts that the production of these smart vehicles is going to reach $61 million in 2020, which is massive.

Now that we’ve got a little bit of background on the industry, let’s see how connected cars will change the driving experience and life on the road.

Video and Connected Cars

Cars will be equipped with multiple sensors and video will play a significant part in the process of gathering data and processing it to transmit information.

Here are the three major roles and functionalities of video, its impact on the connected cars and how it will change life on the road:

1. Entertainment

Entertainment on the go is not a new concept. Newer car models already come with screens for the passengers which sit in the back seats, so that they can watch a movie while they’re on the road.

Connected cars, however, will take this technology even further.

For example, Volvo announced that they partnered up with Netflix to stream videos in their cars.

Also, their Concept 26 car (named like this because the average commuter loses 26 minutes sitting in traffic) can play uninterrupted videos and download them ahead of time by predicting where the car would lose its wireless connectivity. This prediction is made according to the route the driver has planned.

Honda takes entertainment to the next level by offering VR entertainment for passengers.

The automaker partnered with DreamWorks Animation and created a technology called Dream Drive which synchronizes the images with the motion of the vehicle.

The final example of how entertainment will transform life on the road (even though it’s not related to video) comes from Ford. At the beginning of this year, Ford partnered up with Amazon to integrate Alexa, the intelligent personal assistant, with their connected cars.

This means that you will be able to buy products online while you’re driving or check to see if your heater is on for when you arrive at home. That way, the driving experience will be much more relaxing because you’ll be able to perform certain tasks ahead of time.

2. Safety

Safety on the roads has become a more significant issue nowadays, since many drivers are being distracted by their phone and can’t fully concentrate on the road.

Connected cars will have cameras mounted, so that they will give the driver a 360 overview of the surroundings.

Thanks to these video cameras, driving safety will increase because the person behind the wheel will be able to make better decisions when switching between lanes, and they will know what’s behind them when they want to back up.

By leveraging machine learning (which is a way for computers to learn without being previously programmed), connected cars will be able to brake if suddenly a pedestrian crosses the street and the driver doesn’t have the chance to make the first move.

3. Security

Car surveillance cameras or video security for cars will become a must for connected vehicles, primarily because vandalism, break-ins or accidents happen while cars are parked on the street.

No more guessing who has done what to your car. Thanks to these video cameras, you will have it all on tape.

This video technology may go even further soon and use biometric scanning.

Thanks to facial recognition software, the car will be able to recognize if it’s you in the driver’s seat or someone else. Don Turner, Panasonic Automotive Associate Director of Advanced Engineering, said that this technology would be ready in 2020.

Augmented Reality Navigation

At first glance, you might think that seeing something on your windshield could be incredibly distracting when driving.

In reality, this technology would serve at highlighting objects around the car.

Typically, these head-up displays show information about the speed and navigation, so that the driver won’t look away from the road.

However, car manufacturers are exploring this technology so they can display more than their driving speed or how much fuel they have left.

An example of how the augmented reality (AR) technology can be used is this. In the cities where the traffic is overwhelming, distractions can be eliminated, so that the driver can find more easily traffic signs.

AR navigation will eventually include information such as:

  • Traffic conditions;
  • Real-time accident alerts;
  • Nearby attractions;
  • Directions.

Easy Payment

Aside from V2V technology, connected cars will also make use of vehicle-to-things technology (V2X).

If, right now, paying with our smartphone has become a standard thing, in the next few years we’ll be able to make payments from the dashboard of our car.

Visa already has plans in this direction, and they’re preliminary testing this idea with Honda and parking app ParkWhiz.

Another app idea is one which will notify the driver when the fuel level is low, and it will give them directions to the nearest or cheapest gas station.

So, after you fill up the gas tank, no need to go in and pay for the fuel. Just get in the car, pay straight from your dashboard and go.

Assistance with parking is also one of the most desired features. Thanks to the app Visa is working on; you will be able to find a parking spot, reserve and pay for it all without leaving your car. You will also be notified how much time you have left for that parking space, so you know when you need to return to the car or pay for extra time.

Driving to the Future

It’s hard to keep up with all the automotive technology and all the new innovative concepts which car manufacturers come up with.

A few years ago, some of the ideas I mentioned in this post were seen as a fantasy and many tech specialists thought that we would see them commercialized sometime soon.

And the industry shows no signs of slowing down.

More and more tech companies will continue to collaborate with automakers to come up with inspiring solutions which tackle the transportation issues of today’s society.

And it’s only the beginning.

We’re most certainly living extraordinary times, and I’m excited to share all the latest findings with you.

I’ll be posting more articles here, so follow me on Medium to be notified when that happens. And you can also follow me on social media if you want to keep up with the latest connected car industry news.

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