We have been using internet-connected car technologies for years, in ways that by now seem routine for many: they link to our smartphones, register real-time traffic alerts, stream music from the Internet, and offer emergency roadside assistance at the touch of a button.
Automakers began linking vehicles to information streams back in the early days of the Internet. When it comes to connecting drivers and technology, the automotive industry has a very long and rich track record, maybe longer than that of any other industry. The first true technological leap forward for cars came in 1911 when automobile companies installed the first piece of electronics in their vehicles — electric starters.
Compact disc players appeared in automobiles in 1985, in 1994 dashboard computer diagnostics was introduced, and GPS navigation systems came in 1995. In the 2000s USB and Bluetooth connectivity became available for cars. The introduction of Bluetooth was an evolution in what we now call “smart car technology.”
Internet of Things Cars
BI Intelligence expects 94 million connected cars to ship in 2021, and for 82% of all cars shipped in that year to be connected. This would represent a compound annual growth rate of 35% from the 21 million connected cars in 2016.
There is a lot of business value that business owners and executives see in IoT, especially in the automotive industry. Internet connection in vehicles allows car companies to release software updates in real time. It brings greater value to customers. Automotive companies are able to use data from the car to analyze its performance and inform drivers if a recall of a particular car is needed and obtain valuable data on how drivers use their cars.
More connectivity provides more data for marketing purposes as well. It makes cross-selling products and services much easier to companies and more meaningful for car owners.
Twenty-seven percent of executives in the automotive industry see BMW as a leader in self-driving cars, and 16% view it as an electric mobility leader, according to a KPMG 2017 survey of 200 automotive executives. Aisin Seiki Co., Denso, Toyota, and Tesla are also near the top of the list. As far as telecommunications, companies including AT&T, Google, Apple, Pandora and many others are working in the connected car industry.
At the moment, Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto have a shared agenda with automakers — to neatly stitch together vehicles and smartphones so that drivers can safely stay connected behind the wheel. But their competing philosophies and interests are starting to come into play, raising the prospect of tensions over safety, privacy or profits.
The only option for Apple users is using Apple’s messaging service, iMessage, which competes with WhatsApp, a popular messaging app for Android. CarPlay does not support WhatsApp due to Apple’s control over its products. They have confirmed that third-party messaging apps are unavailable. This situation shows how the balance of power in the auto industry is shifting.
For now, the only type of third-party app that Apple supports is streaming audio, which is seen as CarPlay’s biggest edge over today’s infotainment systems. Apps such as Spotify, iHeartRadio and Stitcher are available on Apple’s platform. Meanwhile, Android Auto requires these third-party apps to fit into a template, forcing them into certain restrictions. Each party has their own detailed opinion about what the dashboard experience should look like, and it makes car manufacturers align themselves with one company or the other, which may be inconvenient for the end-user.
Connected and self-driving cars are one of the biggest trends nowadays and will drive the rapid growth of the IoT during the next decade and beyond. Waymo started as the self-driving car project in 2009, with the goal of developing technology that could transform mobility for millions of people, whether by reducing the number of road deaths caused by human error, reclaiming the billions of hours wasted in traffic, or bringing everyday destinations within reach of those unable to drive. It has become something of an IoT icon due to the many mainstream consumer technologies and news sites that use the image of Google’s self-driving car to illustrate any IoT news in the news cycle.
Since 2009, Google’s prototypes have spent the equivalent of 300 years of driving time on the road and led the industry from a place where self-driving cars seem like science fiction to one where the commercial release is possible somewhere from 2017 to 2020. And don’t forget about Uber, BMW and Tesla doing autonomous vehicle testing and ride sharing.
Among the main obstacles to the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles, in addition to the technological challenges, are disputes concerning liability. This includes a potential loss of privacy and risks of hacking due to the sharing of information through V2V (Vehicle to Vehicle) and V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) protocols.
In one case, a security specialist group took control of a car’s computers through a cellphone and Bluetooth connections, gaining access to the compact disc player and even the tire pressure monitoring system. It took them months to do it, but nonetheless, they succeeded, which raises many questions that must be addressed by the software and hardware developers. For the record, there have been no real-world cases of a hacker remotely taking over a car. But high-tech hijackings will get easier as automakers introduce full Internet access and add computer-controlled safety devices that take over driving duties, such as braking or steering in emergencies, or if the car will be fully self-driven.
There are already products on the market that focus on secure connections in the industrial environment. For example, PHOENIX CONTACT Cyber Security (previously known as Innominate Security Technologies AG) created a security system for industrial use, for which SaM-Solutions provided the QA.
Among countless ethical problems that always accompany AI discussions, a bigger problem that affects the economy and businesses arises in the smart car IoT discussion. The introduction of autonomous vehicles on the mass market might cost up to five million jobs in the US alone, making up almost 3% of the US workforce. Those jobs include drivers of taxis, buses, vans, trucks and e-hailing vehicles. Many industries, such as the auto insurance industry, are indirectly affected. This industry alone generates an annual revenue of about $220 billion, supporting 277,000 jobs. The potential loss of the majority of those jobs due to an estimated decline in accidents by up to 90% will have a tremendous impact on the individuals involved.
The lack of stressful driving, more productive time during the trip, and the potential savings in travel time and cost could become an incentive to live farther away from cities, where land is cheaper, and work in the city’s core, thus increasing travel distances and inducing more of an urban sprawl, more fuel consumption and an increase in the carbon footprint of urban travel.
Public transportation, such as buses and trains, is also transforming due to the IoT. Subway cars in New York City already have built-in Wi-Fi and chargers and according to the city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, cell phone coverage in underground subway stations will be available a full year ahead of schedule.
Major players in this space such as Delta, JetBlue, Amtrak and Greyhound have already started to understand the value of the internet of things automotive. Sensors inside the planes, for example, help maintenance workers secure the aircraft more easily and comply with FAA guidelines. Moreover, countless plane, train and bus companies have started making Wi-Fi available in their vehicles in order to enhance the customer experience, making it a necessity, not a luxury, for many travelers and commuters.
Automotive internet of things is also used by Transport for London, which oversees a network of buses, trains, taxis, roads, cycle paths, footpaths and even ferries, which are used by millions every day in the city of London. They collect great amounts of data through connected ticketing systems, sensors attached to vehicles, traffic signals and also data gathered through surveys, focus groups and social media.
TfL uses this information to:
- Optimize the transport system
- Respond quickly to technical issues
- Understand macro trends in commuting
- Use clients’ personal travel histories to provide personalized travel updates
These systems currently run on a number of Microsoft and Oracle platforms, but the organization is currently looking into adopting Hadoop and other open-source solutions to cope with the growing data demands going forward. Using open-source is a trend in e-Government that keeps getting more and more traction. The Netherlands, for example, is planning to move all of the government infrastructures to open-source.
Plans for the future include increasing the capacity for real-time analytics and working on integrating an even wider range of data sources, to better plan services and inform customers.
IoT has brought many innovations to the transportation market worldwide, changing market demands, trends and the ways we think about such trivial things such as the commute to work. But that is just one area of our everyday lives that the IoT will radically change. The Internet changed how we communicate with each other radically and it keeps changing almost every aspect of our lives. Automation leads to great increases in productivity but raises many social, political and economic questions as well. The one thing we can be sure of — the future is now and we are living it.