Connected Cars - A Smartphone On Wheels

Mercedes F 015

Mercedes F 015

My post in Danish for Mandag Morgen

When we talk about pollution in big cities, we have become accustomed to blame cars as the main culprits, and it is politically correct to rely on public transportation, toll rings and taxes on cars and parking. But despite decades of debate and awareness of the environment among consumers, still more cars are being sold, while the price of public transport increases. On the political side it seems more effort are put into fight the solutions rather than to create them.

As many times before the public initiatives are being overtaken by consumer-driven innovation. But more surprising is that it is the car industry, after years of crisis, that are beginning to find solutions to the problem they created, with a little help from technology companies.

While the automotive industry introduces concepts like smart cars and connected cars, Tesla amongst others are revolutionizing the electric car. Electric cars are now at a level that can compete with cars on fuel, hereunder acceleration, top speed, and where the principal batteries can be charged in half an hour. The price is still in the high end, but decreases as the technologies spread, so more people can afford to buy an electric car without compromising the driving experience.

From science fiction to mainstream
At this year's Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas three football fields of space was filled with car technology. From Mercedes' futuristic concept car F 015 that was revealed on this years CES, Google’s self-driving car to Tesla, which is still able to shake a conservative industry with its technological innovation.

Car manufacturers have apparently stopped predicting the future, and instead started to create it. What sounds like science fiction will available to consumers within a few years.

This development has accelerated, as the hardware and software companies like Qualcomm, Intel, Microsoft, Google, BlackBerry QNX have started to provide technology for car manufacturers.

The dashboard and other surfaces on the car will work as the screen on your smartphone, and the built-in technology not only makes your driving more sustainable, it will also be an important source to big data for the smart cities of the future.

Some may remember the TV serie Knight Rider from the 80s, where David Hasselhoff played the lead role, while a 1986 Pontiac Firebird had the role of KITT - an intelligent car that could drive, think and communicate by it self. The 80s futuristic car is not far from what is possible today, where cars can park, pick up its driver when they call, warn and act when there is danger. The intelligent car uses technologies such as voice control, cameras, radar, LTE (4G standard) and GPS. Mirrors and other surfaces act as screens, while thousands of built-in ultrasonic and infrared sensors tell the driver about the weather and road conditions, the risk of collisions, and how to get the fastest, most economical and best entertained from A to B.

Smart cars are associated with the Internet of Things (IoT), where the car can act as an extension to our home and mobile needs. As a smartphone on wheels our other data will be connected to our car, including our calendar, social networks, e-mail and, a little further into the future, our smart homes and smart cities.

Within a few years we will have the first self-driving car on the road, and we will experience the same evolution with the car, as we experienced with the smartphone, the original function becomes a minor part of the functionality.

Today phone calls only counts for 3% of our smartphones use. The car gives us a new space where a stream of entertainment, information and communication will be a part of the transportation experience, while steering the car becomes secondary.

The car industry reconquers mobile 
IoT is currently build in verticals where smart homes, smart cars and smart cities are developed as individual industries. Consumers therefor needs to use many different hardware devices and a myriad of apps to take advantage of technologies that has limited interaction. But when the technologies within these verticals mature, we will experience an increased interaction that corresponds to consumer behavior.

Smart car technologies can be optimized to a degree where we as humans drivers can’t compete. Motoring will be key to the future of smart cities, where an increased urban population will increase the demands for solving transportation needs and pollution.

The number of cars sold are increasing. Denmark will have 2.4 million cars on the roads in 2017. Today 75% of the Danish population owns a smartphone, 24% has another mobile phone, while the last 1% expects this fad to go away.

Every car and mobile comprise a sender and a receiver and the future homes, cities and cars will be able to exchange information optimizing our lives. When there aren’t cars or pedestrians in the streets the street lights can be turned down. We can save CO2 emissions and a lot of frustration by incorporating sensors in parking lots, so you can be routed to the nearest available space if you do not have a self-driving car that parks itself. Data on traffic behavior can help urban planners to reduce air pollution, optimize traffic, roads and public transport, meeting real-time needs.

The automotive industry haven't shown many signs of mobile technologies in cars since the 90s, - until now. The automotive industry used to own mobile, where the mobile phones were embedded in the car, and had the size of a car battery. Now they are about to reconquer the role as being key to consumers mobile behavior. Behind the scenes and on various electronic fairs we have seen scenarios of how the future cars are driven by technology, from unmanned vehicles and sensors for connecting location-based services, personal and social communication with our driving behavior.

The development of smart cars will not only revolutionize the transport sector, but also the future of cities. The progressive automotive brands are speeding up this (r)evolution, with the car as the media, data as the mean and transportation as the goal.