Back in the 1980s, the iconic horror author, Stephen King, was one of the first people to examine a co-dependent relationship between vehicle and owner. In the film, ‘Christine’, the boy and his car are so in tune with one another that the car is able to perform tasks at will.
Admittedly, this is particularly far-fetched but these films are as visionary as they are cautionary. Fast-forward to today and how vehicles are intuitively connected to the driver and the entire environment around them is a hot topic. In fact, we are at the dawn of a new era of mobility where developments over the next decade will be as profound as that of the Henry Ford production line.
The fact is that today, cities suffer from pollution, traffic congestion and a lack of parking spaces, while technology today is practically part of our DNA. This has led to the development of the connected car. From the outside this may seem like the 21st Century equivalent of the ‘space race’ between Tesla and Google, both hell-bent on developing the category killing, robot vehicle. However, the truth is that even today, these cars can already do everything from transmitting your location to emergency services in case of an accident, to linking wirelessly to your home to turn on your heating.
However, getting to a future of entirely connected cars isn’t as simple as going from 0 – 60 mph as quickly as possible. Much like driving into potentially rewarding but dangerous territory, it is a case of proceed with caution to avoid rushing headlong into disaster. Here’s why:
- Security: As cars become more connected, they will become a paradise for hackers. Think beyond car theft to things like hacked cars driving their occupants into the sea, or a bank manager’s family being kidnapped and held to ransom. Researchers have already shown how they can take control of cars, forcing them to brake, accelerate or steer.
- Infrastructure (lack of): The connected vehicle is one thing, but it will only derive its maximum benefit from being intrinsically linked to the city. This is fine in cities like Barcelona, less so in the congested and overpopulated cities of Delhi or Sao Paulo where simply driving from one end of the street to the other is not without challenges.
- Investment: By any standard, connecting every car, to every city is an enormous task, pushing the limits of our technological boundaries. That means it will take years, generations even, and monumental amounts of investment, which could be spent on areas like medicine and housing.
- Mobile partners: the automotive and mobile industries have different objectives, but they will need to find ways to collaborate in order to satisfy connectivity needs. Today, partnerships already exist but what does that mean in terms of exclusivity and knowledge sharing?
- Time: The difference in technological lifecycles of the phone and car are vastly different. Upgrades and new operating systems as integrated virtually real time for mobile handsets, while car manufacturers work on much longer cycles.
- Safety: Without a doubt, improved safety measures are a big plus, especially in situations where every second counts. Connected vehicles will mean hazard warnings are communicated directly to the car while providing controlled driving speeds and distances in dangerous conditions. Although, being able to place complete trust in a car is many years away, as Tesla unfortunately proved earlier this year.
- Traffic management: Many modern cars now have fixed GPS devices, navigation, and the ability to connect the owner’s’ phone to the car through Bluetooth or the car’s wireless internet. In addition, some cars now have parking sensors with rearview cameras, or are fitted with various sensors that can measure air pressure and notify the owner of fires in the vehicle.
- Sustainability: There are 900 million automobiles on the world’s roads, and in 2020 the figure will be 1.1 billion. Most of them are powered by fossil fuels that generate 14 percent of the world’s exhaust fumes and emissions. If freight could be shipped using the best mode of transport for each case, and intelligently bundled and delivered, emissions could be brought down. This also applies to individuals, as our cars will tell us where people are waiting who want a ride, so that we no longer travel alone.
- Services: Consumers expect that the vehicles of the future will provide relevant services and relieve us of burdens. Garages will conduct remote diagnosis; we will be informed about free parking spaces close by. Advanced driver assistance systems will take over some of the burdens of driving, and along our route we will find hotels or restaurants recommended by the car. If we are using an electric vehicle, it will indicate the nearest charging point. The list is endless.
- Infotainment: Connecting automobiles is what makes mobile internet use truly mobile. Music, radio plays, news bulletins, films, the latest messages from friends, information about the surroundings, or completely new ideas for entertainment will enrich our journeys. Numerous apps are turning cars into companions that know our preferences and interests, and make every kilometer valuable and useful.
The universe of the driver is changing rapidly. Whatever happens, those in the automotive industry are preparing for this early and comprehensively by expanding business divisions to simply go beyond the product. Regardless of the extent to which connected vehicles are adopted, the intelligent networking of vehicles, automated hardware systems and new mobility services are being developed and happening right now. However, there is still so much more by way of developments to IoV security and safety alone that need to be made, to reassure us as to the benefits of this technology. Until then, it may be some time until complete IoV cars, like Tesla, will be accepted onto the roads.
Jarosław Czaja is Founder and CEO of Future Processing, a high-quality Polish software development outsourcer. Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award Finalist, Jarek is responsible for the day-to-day running of the company, as well as its growth strategy.