The key aspect we are helping automotive industries today is in the area of IoTs. And this applies not just to tier-1 manufacturer but also the tier-2 and tier-3 suppliers and also to the entire after-market tiers.
- Monitoring your vehicle’s health is a primary automotive benefit of the Internet of Things.
- IoT has also changed the infotainment features of vehicles by making it easier to connect mobile devices and introducing new navigation capabilities.
- Some newer vehicle models come with built-in 4G LTE so you can turn your vehicle into a traveling Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Sensors, cameras, and other technologies are making it possible for vehicles to communicate with each other and are making self-driving vehicles a reality.
The term “smart car” used to denote a vehicle that had superior fuel efficiency. It was also the brand name for a line of ultra-compact gas and electric vehicles. Today, however, a vehicle’s “smartness” extends far beyond good mileage and meshes with IoT (Internet of Things) technology.
Although many automotive IoT technologies have been around for years, the difference now is that most of these systems can communicate with one other and with other devices. Connected cars are becoming the norm in the automotive industry, and manufacturers are adding new features every year to give drivers even more control over their vehicles. In this article, we’ll cover a few examples of IoT-related features you can expect to find in most modern vehicles, as well as a few other features coming a little further down the road. In-Vehicle & Remote Diagnostics.
One of the most practical and helpful vehicular IoT applications involves diagnostics and predictive maintenance. Most modern vehicles have what’s called an OBD (on-board diagnostics) port. Until recently, this was primarily used by automotive repair shops, but now there are readers that drivers can attach to the OBD port to obtain up-to-the-minute diagnostics on a vehicle and reminders for oil changes and other predictive maintenance services.
One example of this is Hum by Verizon. With Hum, Verizon combines an OBD reader, speaker, and an application to give you as much information as possible about your vehicle. Hum lets you access general vehicle health information, set up maintenance reminders, and obtain 24/7 roadside assistance or emergency help using a button on the speaker. With the Hum app, you can even find your parked car or locate it in the event that it’s stolen. This is also the case with other vendors. The key aspect here that we can help is integrating all of these aspects and making it visible real-time in your enterprise solution(s).
- In-Vehicle Entertainment
Entertainment in a vehicle used to constitute a radio, CD player, and maybe a built-in DVD player for the passengers in the back. Even up until recently, one of the biggest innovations in in-vehicle entertainment was the addition of auxiliary and USB ports for connecting MP3 players and mobile devices. Now, some vehicles let you connect your smartphone or other device via wireless connection where you can listen to music through your car speakers and even skip tracks, control volume, or perform other tasks using buttons built into the steering wheel or the touchscreen display built into the console.
The same hands-free phone features from the past have also been upgraded with modern vehicles. Rather than only being able to make and receive calls using a Bluetooth connection and hands-free capabilities, you can now dictate and send text messages. With these types of wireless features, your vehicle essentially becomes an extension of your smartphone or other mobile device, so you can use it safely while traveling.
- GPS & Navigation
It may not be immediately obvious, but if you think about it, GPS and navigation in vehicles also falls into the automotive IoT category because it requires a GPS-enabled device in your car to connect to satellites. And in some situations, your navigation system or even your smartphone can connect directly to a 4G LTE wireless network to offer directions. Although GPS is far from being a new technology, it’s how automobile manufacturers and IT vendors are implementing it that makes all the difference.
One such example is NVIDIA, which builds Tegra processors that can be used in a vehicle’s infotainment system. This extra compute power makes it possible to get the traditional GPS experience but also add more detailed maps using services such as Google Earth. If you don’t think GPS and in-car entertainment have changed much over the years, look no further than the Tesla Model S, which sports a 17-inch touchscreen display for entertainment and to give you a much larger view of the roads ahead so you can properly chart a course. Although some of these GPS services still rely on the traditional satellite connection, there are some that can use 4G LTE connections to provide even more accurate directions.
- Cellular & Wireless Connectivity
To help customers take full advantage of the many services and entertainment capabilities of modern vehicles, some vendors offer built-in Wi-Fi hotspots using a 4G LTE connection. These in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspots work in a similar way to using Wi-Fi tethering with a smartphone or tablet, but in this case your vehicle is connected to the 4G LTE connection and multiple devices can be tethered to it via Wi-Fi. OnStar is one of the major providers of this service right now, but only in a few 2015 and 2016 model vehicles from Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac.
With an in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot, you can wirelessly connect mobile devices to save on your phone’s data plan (often with a more stable connection), and it makes the other navigation, roadside assistance, and diagnostics services work even better. Keep in mind that this feature costs extra as of right now, but it’ll certainly be interesting to see how other vendors implement the technology.
- Climate Control & Other Remote Features
You’re probably familiar with remote starters for vehicles where, for example, in the winter, you can press a button to start your car and warm it up before you leave for work. But now that smartphones and vehicles can communicate with each other, manufacturers are adding even more features to climate control and other remote commands. Some newer vehicles will allow you to download an app on your smartphone and not only start your car, but also turn on your air conditioning or heating, lock or unlock your doors, and even honk your horn or flash your lights so you can find your car in the parking lot. BMW even offers a feature as part of its ConnectedDrive service that lets you set a start time for your vehicle, so you don’t have to remember to hit a button a few minutes before you leave the house.
In addition to sensors that can monitor the health of your vehicle, now there are also external sensors that can be used to monitor the world around you. In essence, you are using these sensors to give your vehicle active radar so it can give you as much information as possible about the space around your vehicle and cars or other objects that may be in the way. However, this goes beyond the common backup assistance features you’ll find in many modern vehicles to include blind spot indicators; side, rear, and front impact prevention; and even adaptive cruise control and emergency braking. Depending on the breadth and depth of the system installed in your vehicle, it can either give you audible and visual alerts when an impact is possible or it can temporarily take control of the vehicle to avert potential danger.
- Vehicle-To-Vehicle Communication
Radar is one thing, but what if all the vehicles on the road were able to talk to each other? That’s the promise of V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) communication. Every vehicle with this technology would come with a receiver and transmitter that would send information out to every other vehicle within range. The biggest benefit of V2V is that it is designed to make the automatic safety features built into some vehicles work even better.
For example, let’s say you’re driving in cruise control behind another vehicle and it suddenly starts to slow down. The car in front of you would be able to relay that information back to your car to let it know to slow down. Or, in a similar vein, by using adaptive cruise control, your vehicle can continuously gather information from the other vehicles around it to properly regulate speed and avoid those jolting moments that can happen from time to time with a traditional cruise control system.
- Self-Driving Vehicles
If it feels like the ability for your car to use radar to detect outside objects and the ability for vehicles to communicate with one another is leading somewhere, then you’re absolutely right. These technologies, along with many others of course, help build the potential foundation for driverless and self-driving vehicles. In fact, Google and Apple, among other companies, are working on self-driving vehicle technology, and there are already driverless cars on the road today. Interestingly enough, Tesla Motors was actually able to add a few self-driving/driverless capabilities, including automatic steering, lane changing, and parking, to its Model S cars via a software update without needing to add any extra hardware.
There is quite a bit of debate on the best approach to driverless and self-driving vehicles. Google is currently using sensors that can detect objects that are more than 200 yards away, pulling that information into the built-in software, and then using it to operate the car in the safest manner possible. However, some other vendors are taking a different approach by using optical cameras for steering and other capabilities. Although there’s no firm date on when driverless and self-driving vehicles will go mainstream, the fact that there are already so many of them (Google claims its cars have already driven more than 1 million miles) means that the day cars drive themselves may be closer than you think.
If you’re thinking that all of these automotive IoT technologies are too good to be true, then there is some good news and some bad news. Manufacturers are working to make the software built into these vehicles as safe as possible, but the most modern vehicles today run on computers, which can be hacked. This is dangerous for vehicles with automatic safety features, and it’s especially dangerous for driverless and self-driving vehicles.