It is amazing to think about how technology has made life easier, more entertaining and increasingly productive. Yet the breathtaking accomplishments delivered by recent sleek devices and their associated apps will be considered quaint in comparison to what is on the way for the automobile of the future. With the massive potential on the horizon it’s easy to focus on the self-driving car as the crowning achievement of all automotive technology, but we shouldn’t miss the importance of the steps along the way. One of those steps will be the development of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT will play a central role in the way we commute in the modern world, before the day when we truly sit back and enjoy the ride.
The core of the modern commute will depend on an interconnected web of communications between the cloud, cars, traffic lights, roads, bridges, traffic signs, and all other existing and developing infrastructures. These communications will transfer critical information about positioning, road conditions, traffic flow and safety through a command and control center in the cloud or directly via wireless connectivity. The goal will be to improve the safety and efficiency of the driver and provide the foundation for the self-driving car. What are the practical implications of these communications? Let’s explore a typical commute.
As a driver makes her way to work she will receive notifications from her car about accidents and traffic delays. While it is currently possible to see traffic impediments and alternative routes on satellite navigation, soon the interaction will be more instructive with the car actively advising on alternate routes. Once an alternative route is taken drivers will likely notice that the city’s road infrastructure has also dynamically adjusted in anticipation of the re-routed traffic. Traffic light timing will change to absorb the diverted traffic and calibrate flow to meet the new road demands. These examples are already being piloted in some cars and in a few progressive cities and will grow in sophistication.
In the flow of traffic our driver will also benefit from systems that automatically check the distance between her car and those of other commuters. The cars will be in a state of constant communication and monitoring with each other and with roadside/infrastructure communication systems. The cars will use traffic collision avoidance systems to keep the commuters safe.
Another important part of road safety is proper car maintenance. As the connections between IoT become more robust, cars will check diagnostics and automatically communicate with servers in the cloud to schedule maintenance with nearby mechanic shops based on the severity of the problems. The trigger will likely notify the driver of the appropriate repair locations that carry the service or part the car needs.
Since our driver lives in the suburbs she has to take a 30 mile drive through the hills. While she is driving, her car’s Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), which includes a 77 GHz radar and a 360 degree vision system, will help her car navigate the road as safely as possible; maintaining constant communication with roadside infrastructure as well as a Command and Control server in the cloud. This system will warn her of obstacles around the corner, check for ice buildup on an upcoming bridge for example, or perhaps a herd of deer approaching the road around a turn.
These are a few examples of the ways the modern commute will be impacted by the IoT. These are the beginning sketches of technologies that will change the way we drive and possibly society itself. We should all make an effort to enjoy these innovations as they come so that we can savor the self-driving car when it enters our lives. It won’t be long.