The concept of connected cars is revolutionising the automobile industry worldwide. Connected cars use mobile internet technology to control key functions remotely via a smartphone, smart watch, tablet device or a computer system. Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology allows a car to communicate with other cars and street infrastructure such as traffic lights.

According to experts, the automotive industry will see greater disruption in the next 10 years than it has in the past 50. The process of driving has become significantly easier with the advent of semi-automatic, if not completely automatic, cars. The industry is now gradually moving towards driverless or autonomous cars. According to Deloitte, the number of consumers interested in renting or hiring an autonomous vehicle increased by nearly 15 per cent during 2017.

The car of the future will not be just a metallic body that serves simply as a means of conveyance. It will be nothing less than a computer on wheels; an amalgamation of software that will generate massive amounts of data. Experts predict that a connected car will have about 200 million lines of software code in the future.

Future trends

Car manufacturers today are exploring new technologies that will completely transform the driving experience. A few examples of these are as follows:

  • AI interface: Building on technology that is currently limited to smartphones or smart speakers, automakers will work to provide artificial intelligence (AI) software in a vehicle’s infotainment system. The software will serve as a virtual personal assistant, with the ability to respond to voice commands and pro-actively guide drivers in collaboration with the vehicle’s navigation system.
  • Telematics: Automotive telematics can play a vital role in assessing driver behaviour for a wide range of purposes. Dealerships value telematics as a way to monitor vehicle diagnostics and provide smart maintenance services.
  • V2V connectivity: V2V technology allo­ws vehicles on the road to talk to each ot­­her by sharing data on speed, road conditions and other factors through an ad hoc network created amongst vehicles. V2V shows great promise in helping to avoid crashes and ease traffic congestion. Ta­king the concept one step further, ve­hi­­­­­­cle-to-everything (V2X) technology will make it possible for vehicles to communicate with smart traffic signals and even conduct a transaction at a petrol pump.
  • Sensors: Innovative sensors can monitor and regulate a car’s operation during au­­tonomous driving by sharing the data of critical systems such as the engine, brake and transmission system. Sensors such as LiDAR, radar, cameras and ultrasonic are significantly influencing auto safety, security and vehicle maintenance costs.
  • B2V technology: Brain-to-vehicle technology uses a device to imperceptibly mea­­sure brainwave activity, which is analysed by the vehicle’s autonomous systems and used to predict and eventually anticipate driver behaviour. It re­qu­ir­es the use of a headset dotted with electrodes that either press directly ag­ainst a person’s scalp or come as close to it as possible. Predictions are that B2V application can help drivers avoid accidents caused by abrupt lane changes and other unsafe driving practices.

5G and connected cars

The concept of connected cars would require high-bandwidth connectivity that is both reliable and ubiquitous to become a commercial success. At present, the connected car market is largely aligned with 2G/3G networks. However, this is changing as the industry is moving towards 4G long term evolution (LTE) connectivity. Ac­cording to a recent industry forecast, nearly 90 per cent of connected cars will have 4G LTE technology installed by 2022. On top of that, 5G connectivity in cars is expected to kick in from 2020.

5G will be a key enabler of V2X communication. In addition, it will play an important role in meeting the demand for data-rich services such as live video stream­ing, and help in processing the large amount of data generated by autonomous cars. Further, real-time high resolution video feeds shared between vehicles require very low latency and high speed, which a 5G network can provide. A device with 5G connectivity can feed the position of a pedestrian back to a connected vehicle, alerting it about the pedestrian’s presence through non-line-of-sight capability.

The way forward

Traditionally, automotive digital technology has focused on optimising a vehicle’s internal functions. However, this is changing fast with the growing focus on developing technology to connect vehicles to the outside world. The next-generation cars will be as connected as our smartphones, with access to the internet and the cloud. Industry experts predict that 90 per cent of new cars will have internet connectivity by 2020.

The technological advancements in the automotive industry will open up opportunities for developers to create new apps that enable consumers to interact with connected cars. For example, the market will soon see apps that provide a secure, personalised, contextual and intuitive interface for users of autonomous cars to interact with their vehicles. An evolving ecosystem for connected cars will also open up new revenue opportunities for telecom operators. They can collaborate with car manufacturers to provide 4G/5G connectivity for a superior autonomous driving experience.

That being said, as the connected car space expands, it will become imperative to legally define data ownership and ensure the protection of users’ personal data. It is essential to provide a robust security framework to protect users from intentional and unintentional compromises.

Akanksha Mahajan Marwah and Diksha Sharma