When it comes to technology in cars, many of the headlines focus on self-driving cars but this is the only area where car companies are turning to tech. In fact, today’s cars are more computers on wheels than what a traditional gearhead would call a car.
For purists, this might point to the end of the car as the height of mechanical engineering but for techies, the world over the changes have not only transformed cars but driving itself. Still not convinced? Here are some of the way’s car companies are using tech to transform driving.
In the old days this was called a horn, and maybe some international sign language. But these days cars are being programmed to talk to themselves. Granted this “talking” is not in a language we would understand. Rather it is the sensors and transmitters which allow one car, regardless of make, to tell other cars just where it is on the road. These systems can help drivers to make better decisions about speed and road conditions and might even play a role in reducing traffic accidents.
This can be a big help. According to Robert Wilson from Robert Wilson & Associates in Minneapolis, “victims of injury caused by a reckless driver may have their lives completely disrupted, losing months or even years of wages.” However, cars which can communicate might be able to reduce the number of such incidents and by extension the costs.
One of the enabling technologies transforming how we get from point A to point B is artificial intelligence (AI). In simplest terms, this means empowering computers with the processing power needed to think. But it goes deeper for this as there are also the concepts of machine learning and neutral networks which play into the broader school of AI.
There is also the unanswered question of the ethics of cars which can think as many in the computer science community are now grasping with the conundrum faced by the “trolley problem”.
The trolley problem is a hypothetical whereby the person (or computer) being posed with the question needs to decide how to steer a runaway trolley. Do they choose to kill one person or many people? As it goes with hypothetical questions there is never an easy answer.
Stepping back from the philosophical to the practical, AI is being used to manage everything from smart speakers to the car’s onboard diagnostic system. When this is added to the car’s communication system, it creates a way for automakers to track the performance of their vehicles years after they were sold.
As such, the use of AI is likely to become a key part of the technological puzzle used by car companies to transform driving.
Tele-what? Telematics. This is used to assess vehicle performance and driver behavior but opposed to AI, this data is collected via “dumb” sensors which then report the information collected either when a car is being serviced or via an over-the-air transmission system connected to a cell network.
Dealershipsuse this information in their service departments and automakers collect the data from the dealers to use when designing improvements to their fleets. According to estimates, nearly 80 percent of all new cars sold in 2017 were outfitted with some sort of telematics solution and this number is expected to reach more than 75 percent of all vehicles on the road by some time in the next decade.
Granted, the level of data collected and how it is secured has privacy advocates concerned but increasingly car makers and even insurance companies are relying on this data to better understand how drivers drive.
The Connected Car
As cars become more like computers, they are also becoming an extension of our cell phones – which in many ways have already become an extension of ourselves. What does this mean for drivers? For starters, soon the key for your home, your car, and your life may well be your smartphone. Beyond that, you could use your phone as a hub to park your car and even have it pick you up.
Beyond this, it probably means there is no hiding from work as your car will be connected to the cloud, which also means that you can access, and work on, many of your most important files even when you are stuck in traffic.
Last, but not least, are the self-driving cars. For those who dread their daily commute the idea of cars which can drive themselves is probably a welcome one; while purists will rue the end of driving as we know it.
Not only will cars that drive themselves transform driving, but it will also transform the concept of private vehicle ownership and the entire bevy of jobs tied to cars – e.g. assembly, service, delivery, and driver to name a few.
In the end,the future of driving is cars that drive themselves, the car companies are already investing big money into its development and the only thing that could stop it could be the lawyers and the politicians.