There was a time when getting a message across to your relative in a far off place would take months. Then, with the developments in travel technology, getting from one place to another became much faster. A distance of thousands of kilometers could now be traversed in a matter of days or even hours, depending on your mode of travel. With everyday life becoming so fast-paced, having a vehicle at your disposal has sort of becoming a necessity these days.
Staying connected to the world through the internet is another need that humankind is currently dealing with. The amount of time a person spends on travel as well as on the internet certainly takes up a sizeable chunk of the day. Car connectivity is a field that brings together both of these needs, making it indispensable to the modern-day individual and businesses alike, especially in the automobile industry.
Vehicle infotainment systems are developing at a tremendous pace, with Over-The-Air (OTA) connectivity acting as its backbone. The digital aspect of your car basically consists of two types of units – the Telematics Control Unit that connects you to the world through applications such as Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, letting you access features like navigation, messaging, calling and even web search, and the different Electronic Control Units in your car that control parts of your vehicle, right from the operation of your car’s engine, the braking system, safety features such as airbags and even seating adjustments.
Being connected to the internet not only allows you to access information from the comfort of your car while still focusing your attention on driving (a certain number of cars these days allow in-car features to be voice-controlled, for example, the Ford SYNC technology), but is a two-way path, allowing auto manufacturers and OEMs to send software updates to your vehicle’s system. It also enables car manufacturers to monitor parameters related to your vehicle and driving patterns, especially through the use of sensors, radars, and cameras.
Manufacturers such as Audi and Mercedes have started employing drowsiness detection systems in some of their vehicles that make use of cameras and image recognition to determine if the driver is feeling drowsy, alerting the driver in such instances so as to reduce the risk of road accidents. The Research Automotive Wearable Experiences Lab at Ford is working on the development of wearable devices that monitor the driver’s physical condition and mental state. Bosch is another technology company that is working on a system that will be able to monitor the driver’s alertness, as well as body posture, heart rate, and even body temperature.
As the cars run on the road while being connected to the cloud, auto manufacturers are simultaneously collecting humongous amounts of data on the condition of your vehicle, as well as on your driving patterns, to the tunes of about 25GB of data every hour the car is being run. This has also helped in altering the development of the autonomous vehicle value chain. As a result, cars are increasingly being defined by their software, leading to automotive companies investing heavily in these areas, either through their own tech and software divisions or through collaborations, such as the one the Volkswagen Group recently announced with Aeris Communications. However, there is still a need for bringing the numerous operators in the field of car connectivity onto the same platform, so as to have a certain standard to the software being created and their interoperability. This should probably be much easier once open-source software is being increasingly developed and adopted across the industry.