History is full of revolutionary time-saving examples that improved the quality of life. In the Post-World War II boom era, domestic chores became easier as new appliances like washing machines, mixers, vacuum cleaners and other home oriented tools opened up a new period of relative leisure for homemakers. The result was a time dividend for other items on the family’s to do list. The future will hold such a dividend for both drivers and passengers of the modern automobile. The Internet of Things coupled with the re-definition of the car’s role will position this generation as the next to benefit from a substantial time dividend.
The average driver in the United States spends almost one hour a day in an automobile commuting to and from work. As urban centers in the U.S. continue to swell with car driving citizens, and as governments struggle to maintain the associated infrastructure, commute times are likely to increase. If you analyze the concentration required to drive and the relative danger a lack of attention can cause, it is interesting to think about what could be gained if the car had the ability to drive itself. We often talk about the future of the self-driving car and the technologies that will get us there. But what about the extra productivity that we can look forward to when we sit back and enjoy the ride?
The economics of Bluetooth technology continue to make it accessible and effective in hands-free communication. While hands-free has already become a part of the in-vehicle culture, it will be even more valuable once the driver no longer has to focus on the road. Both drivers and passengers will have the ability to conduct work meetings and eventually video conferences with in-car cameras and high resolution monitors. Or, rather than bring in a new monitor, the built-in HUD (Head Up Display) can be used to project video images onto the windscreen.
In addition to voice and video communications, work will also be accomplished with enhanced network connectivity. Drivers will be able to use their cars as both a network hub and as a device for storing documents, and presentations. Additionally drivers and passengers will be able to access VPNs and collaborative workspaces. Airplanes and busses are already implementing Wi-Fi connectivity on their premium transportation routes. Drivers and passengers can also expect to gain additional benefits in speed over time.
The communication link to a car will include both short range low latency 802.11p, dedicated short range V2V/V2I communication for safety, as well as WAN based communication system through cellular, satellite or an increasing Wi-Fi network.
Not all in-car benefits have to be in the form of increased work productivity. As drivers are able to reduce their driving responsibilities they will be able browse the Web, engage in social media, and interact with rich media such as music and video.
Once the content has reached the car, the in-vehicle communication can be done using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or even ultra-wide band. The question is what type of content is being discussed and the means to get it to the car. If indeed the combination of cellular, satellite & WAN coverage, get the contents needed to the car, then a capable infotainment unit is needed to receive the information, process, and then distribute in the car to the other passenger seats and screens. The services for a central multi-media infotainment unit could include processing of downloaded media in various formats, voice activated texting or email, augmented maps, with augmented reality, using GPS, news and sports updates, eBooks (for the backseat screens) and music, etc. Once the data is available, it can be distributed to the other passenger seats (screens in the back seats and/or wireless headphones for audio related applications).
The use of cellular and satellite communications within the cars for telemetry and other applications are already familiar to many. Examples of these technologies are already in use in high-end cars such as Lexus, or in services such as On-Star. There are also new services being introduced by various operators to address in-vehicle communications and entertainment systems that vendors hope automakers will adopt to attract more connected consumers. Sprint is an example of such a service provider. They currently have services that allow drivers to connect their mobile phones to their vehicles through Bluetooth, providing access to a range of infotainment related applications. Of course once the car is connected to the cloud, a variety of IoT related command and control services can also be provided.
It is projected that the automotive industry will become the second largest generator of data on the IoT – and you can easily imagine services like (a) over the air software updates and purchase of password enabled vehicle options , (b) preventative maintenance of the vehicle, with the OEM monitoring indicative sensor parameters, to minimize time spent off the road, and (c) regulatory services, so that you pay for the vehicle (insurance, tax etc) depending on your hours and style of driving.
Data from NHTSA suggests that Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) have the possibility of reducing the number of accidents by 80%. While radar, LIDAR & vision processing are becoming common place, the missing piece is the longer range V2V/V2I communications. The extra information that V2V/V2I provides will make a huge difference to the effectiveness of ADAS, e.g. providing the ability to essentially “see” invisible dangers, round corners or behind other vehicles and to receive early warning of traffic obstructions and hazards ahead. Self-driving is a combination of two functions – firstly making sure the vehicle cannot crash, then the vehicle can find its way from A to B. V2V/V2I communications is essential for both parts of the challenge.
These are a few of the ways drivers and passengers will benefit from a fully connected self-driving car. As we delegate driving responsibilities we will be able to engage in enhanced work and entertainment experiences. But perhaps the best benefit the autonomous driving dividend will be the ability to swivel the driver’s seat to engage with the passengers in a more meaningful way.