As Rob switches on his turn signal to show that he is about to pass the car in front of us, I noticed the touchscreen display go from the music app to an in-board camera showing us the car’s blind spots. “All clear,” Rob shouts with excitement as we make the safe and easy change of lanes. The display screen then switches back to the music app with all of his favorite tracks, the daily weather forecast, and a reminder that tomorrow Daylight Savings Time will go into effect.
This experience was the first time that I had truly seen what is now becoming a normal thing in today’s cars: smart car technology. From the passenger seat, I sat in reflection as I thought about my childhood when I saw the movie Back to the Future for the first time. I was hooked the first time I saw that beautiful DeLorean in all of its futuristic glory.
The idea of a smart car was a long ways away back then, but the possibility of what the future would look like had already been implanted in the minds of millions of tech-lovers around the world. Over the last 30 years since the movie was first released in 1985 til present day, that futuristic dream has now become a reality, and this is only the beginning.
A Connected World
Imagine a world where every physical object would be able to talk to each other. Every item in your house and car, from your garage door to your fuel gauge, and beyond. All of the items connected to each other, sharing data, and making your life easier and more productive.
As you pull up to your driveway, the garage door automatically opens because of the sensor inside your new smart car. Trying to calculate how far you can make it before running out of gas and where you can fill up has never been easier. Your car uses your Miles Per Gallon to gauge the perfect spot to fill up at the cheapest price, and your GPS system pops up on your dash with 3D turn-by-turn directions to help you get there the quickest by taking into account traffic patterns and accidents. This may seem like a dream, but didn’t Back to the Future seem the same way?
This future is not too far off, as a matter of fact it has already arrived, it’s just a matter of making it affordable enough to produce it for the mass population. The IoT (Internet of Things) is a network of devices, buildings, machines and vehicles, equipped with sensors, software, electronics and network connectivity that allows these things to collect, share, analyze and exchange data.
While the IoT encompasses a wide range industries, one of the most exciting opportunities to make an impact is in the automotive market. There are so many useful applications for smart technology in cars, the possibilities are endless. This technology will allow us to improve our transportation systems by reducing traffic and making the roads more efficient and safe.
Not only will the connectivity of our vehicles allow us to be safer and more efficient drivers because of the data received from the on-board sensors, but it will also allow us to interact with the our surroundings in a way never before imaginable.
Putting Our Safety First
It is estimated that there are about 1.2 million road traffic deaths worldwide every year, according to the World Health Organization.
Many of the larger car manufacturers have already experimented with making vehicles completely autonomous or at least semi-autonomous with the help of chips and sensors. These improvements will lead to safer roads and less accidents.
As the technology becomes less costly and more reliable, car manufacturers will begin to fully implement these features into all of their models. For example, take a look at Tesla. They have been able to build a complete company off the basis that cars should be safe, smart, and efficient. Their Model S has been wildly popular in developed countries already among early adopters, although they are relatively costly.
Tesla is not alone in the push toward the future of the auto industry. Manufacturers like Jaguar, Ford, Mercedes, Toyota, and BMW have also began to integrate different smart features into their cars, like adaptive cruise control which gauges the car’s surroundings to automatically speed up or slow down. Even features like collision detection could save someone’s life from a fatal accident.
One of the most important benefits of the new and improving smart car technology is the improved security. The technology will not only keep us safe inside the car while driving, but it will keep our car secure while it is parked and not in use.
Vandals and thieves will have a harder time doing damage to a car that is smarter than they are. A few cars have already come fitted with door handles that retract within the body of the car door and only pop out when the driver approaches with their key fob.
Another advancement that is expected to improve auto security is biometric technology. This would allow the car’s sensors to read the heart rate, fingerprints, and retinas of the car’s designated drivers. It would be hard to imagine petty car thieves finding a way around these high levels of security, drastically reducing the rate of auto theft.
A Rolling Entertainment Hub
Vehicles are now being equipped with In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) systems that allow the driver to control everything from media to restaurant suggestions with directions. Soon enough, your vehicle will know more about you then your best friend. It will be able to give you suggestions and help you make intelligent and informed decisions. There is no doubt that the technology will revolutionize not only the way we drive, but also the way we communicate with the world around us.
Large tech companies like Google and Apple have already released media management systems for the auto industry so that manufacturers can begin integrating their software into their new vehicles. Just as your personal smartphone is an extension of who you are, your car will also be connected in the same way.
Drive Safer, Pay Less
Because of all of the incredible security and safety features mentioned earlier, many drivers have seen a decrease in their insurance premiums in a long time. As autonomous cars become more affordable and prominent, the trend of lower insurance costs is expected to continue. Insurance premiums charged for both new and used smart cars are expected to decline over the coming years because of the benefits of smart car technology.
For example, in the U.S. a 30 year old who drives a Ford Focus EcoBoost with an Automatic Emergency Braking system (AEB) pays approximately 14% less for their car insurance than someone without the AEB system. These savings add up and can be very significant over time.
The data collected from a smart car will not only help you lower your insurance costs, but will also provide the manufacturer and insurance companies with the necessary information to better understand the accidents that do occur. We will be able to better understand the cause and effect of certain circumstances, allowing us to make informed conclusions to why something happened.
With the manufacture of autonomous cars, manufacturers will begin to take more responsibility for accidents since more responsibility and liability will be placed on their algorithms than on the driver.
The Future Has Arrived
From the days of Back to the Future to present day, smart car technology has went from merely an idea to an actual reality. We have came so far during this time, but yet this is just the start. The technology is still in its infancy, and over the coming years we will continue to better understand the best ways to implement it in our daily driving lives as research and testing continues. One thing we do know is certain, the future has arrived and there is no stopping it. It’s full speed ahead!!