The first automobile was invented in 1886 by Karl Benz, but cars were not widely accessible to consumers until over two decades later, when Henry Ford produced the Model T.
Throughout its history, the automotive industry has constantly evolved as a result of new technological advancements. New technologies allowed manufacturers to incorporate various features into the design of automobiles, including car radios, electric windows, seat belts, air bags, on-board diagnostics, navigational systems, and more.
Now, technology has sparked another radical transformation in the automotive industry. As a result, many experts believe that the future of the automotive industry is connectivity in the cockpit. What will a “connected” car look like? What connectivity trends should consumers expect? Here’s what you need to know:
The Three Components of Connected Cars
The fully connected car of the future will consist of three main components, which are:
- Infotainment: The term “infotainment” is used to describe programming that informs and/or educates the vehicle’s passengers. In the future, connected cars will provide infotainment through heads-up displays (HUDs), audio, and in-car infotainment systems built into the dashboard.
- Telematics: This term refers to the integration of telecommunications and information processing. This technology enables the long-distance sending and receiving of computerized data between your vehicle and the cloud.
- Infrastructure: This term refers to the actual physical structure of the vehicle. A connected vehicle’s infrastructure may include various components such as sensors, cameras, and sonar.
Each of these three components plays an important role in keeping the vehicle connected. The infotainment component, which provides information and entertainment, is used to connect the vehicle to its driver and passengers.
The telematics component is used to connect your vehicle to the cloud, where data is stored and shared.
Finally, the infrastructure component is used to connect your vehicle to its surrounding environment so it can detect threats and hazards.
Automotive Connectivity Trends of the Future
It’s estimated that more than three-quarters of new vehicles will be connected to some degree by the year 2025. But what will a connected car be capable of doing? What changes should drivers expect in the cockpit? Experts predict that a number of trends will shape the future of connected cars. Some of the top connectivity trends include:
- Autonomous Vehicles
- Telematics to Monitor Driver Behavior & Vehicle Performance
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) Interfaces
- Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication
- Connected Sensors
- Brain-to-Vehicle Communication
There are five different levels of driving automation, all of which rely on connectivity to operate. The levels are:
- Level 5: This represents fully automated vehicles, which are vehicles that can operate without assistance from human drivers.
- Level 4: Vehicles at this level can perform all tasks required for driving, but human drivers must establish a geofence first.
- Level 3: This is the conditional automation level, where vehicles can detect hazards in their environment and perform most driving tasks. However, human drivers still need to override certain requests and actions in vehicles at this level.
- Level 2: Many vehicles are designed with partial automation, or level 2 automation. These vehicles can perform specific tasks such as steering and acceleration, but human drivers can disable the automation and take complete control of the vehicle at any time.
- Level 1: This is known as the driver assistance level and is characterized by a single automated system such as cruise control.
In the years ahead, experts believe that manufacturers will shift their focus from the lower levels to the upper levels of automation.
Telematics to Monitor Driver Behavior & Vehicle Performance
Telematics technology allows the vehicle to send and receive data to the cloud. In the future, experts believe that this technology will be used to gather data on driver behavior and vehicle performance.
For example, automotive dealerships may use this technology to collect data on a vehicle’s tire pressure or oil level in real time. The dealership could monitor this data and contact the driver when it’s time to schedule a maintenance appointment. Or the dealership could even automatically schedule an appointment for the driver when the data suggests that maintenance is needed.
Insurance companies could also use this technology to monitor a policyholder’s behavior behind the wheel. This technology may allow an insurance company to find out if the driver drives at excessive speeds, slams on their brakes frequently, or fails to use their turning signals. Insurance companies could analyze this data to calculate new premiums for policyholders, which would reward safe drivers and penalize reckless drivers.
These are some of the many ways in which telematics technology could be used in connected cars in the future.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Interfaces
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is the simulation of human intelligence in computers. This technology allows a machine to learn from its mistakes, adjust to changes in its environment, and complete many tasks.
Fully autonomous vehicles will rely on AI technology to operate. However, experts predict that AI will be used in vehicles of all automation levels in the future.
Automotive manufacturers may use AI technology to incorporate virtual personal assistants into their vehicles’ infotainment systems. These virtual assistants would function like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa by responding to voice commands, retrieving information, and answering questions. This would make it easier for a driver to pull up directions to their destination or find a local gas station without taking their eyes off of the road.
This technology could be used to help people stay connected to their work while on the road. In 2020, Salesforce introduced its vision for a “mobile office,” which was a car equipped with an AI-supported infotainment system. This system allowed the driver to access various business applications, including a CRM platform, so they could perform marketing and sales activities using only their voice.
As its name suggests, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology allows vehicles to communicate with one another on the road. This doesn’t mean that a driver in one vehicle will be able to communicate with the driver next to them. Instead, the vehicles will communicate with one another by sending and receiving data related to traffic, road conditions, weather, and other factors.
But that’s not all. Industry insiders believe that this technology will be combined with vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology in vehicles over the next several years. Together, these technologies would allow a vehicle to communicate with other vehicles in addition to traffic lights and other types of infrastructure.
Experts believe that the combination of V2V and V2X technology will improve the driving experience for everyone by reducing congestion on the roads. V2V and V2X communication could also make the roads safer. In fact, it’s estimated that these technologies could prevent around 81% of all traffic accidents.
Experts predict that every new vehicle will be built with V2V technology by the end of the year 2023. Then, automotive manufacturers will most likely start adding V2X technology to vehicles soon after.
Many vehicles on the road today are equipped with sensors that are used to provide drivers with information on their immediate surroundings. For example, if your vehicle beeps when you are about to back into something, this means it is built with sensors. But in the future, sensors on connected vehicles will be used in new and exciting ways.
Some vehicles today are already designed with sensors that warn drivers of safety hazards such as icy roads, potholes, or pedestrians. In the future, these sensors will do more than just warn drivers of hazards in their path. They will also be capable of analyzing the data to determine what changes need to be made to keep everyone in the vehicle safe.
For example, a sensor might detect a patch of ice in the road ahead. In the future, this sensor may be able to quickly calculate how far away the icy patch is from the vehicle and when the vehicle should start braking in order to avoid sliding on it. Then, the sensor may either notify the driver when it’s time to brake or automatically apply the brakes at the appropriate time.
This is one of many ways in which sensors could make the roads less dangerous in the future.
5G is the newest generation of wireless network technology. This advanced technology is capable of transmitting mass amounts of data more efficiently than previous generations, including 4G LTE technology. Whereas 4G technology can reach speeds of 50mbps, 5G technology is capable of reaching speeds of 20gbps. It will also reduce latency, which is the delay between the user’s action and the computer’s response, from 50 milliseconds to less than one millisecond.
This technology has the power to completely transform the automotive industry. Gartner, a research and advisory company, predicts that nearly three-quarters of vehicles will be connected to 5G by 2023. This number is expected to grow even further to 94% by the year 2028.
5G technology will increase the coverage of wireless networks around the world, which means it will be easier for vehicles to stay connected even when traveling in remote areas. This technology will also make vehicles capable of quickly and efficiently performing many “connected” tasks, including automation, data collection, and AI-supported problem solving.
Another trend that experts expect to appear in connected cars in the future is brain-to-vehicle communication technology. This technology would use sensors to record the driver’s brain wave activity. Then, the vehicle will analyze this data to identify issues or predict what the driver is going to do next.
For example, this technology may be used to detect when a driver is getting drowsy. If the driver’s brain wave pattern indicates drowsiness, the vehicle could alert the driver to pull off the road. Fatigue is a leading cause of traffic accidents, so this could potentially prevent thousands of collisions.
Nissan introduced a prototype of its brain-to-vehicle system in 2018. This system measured the driver’s brain waves to determine what maneuvers they would make next. For instance, the system is capable of detecting brain waves that trigger movement of the hands or feet. If these brain waves were detected, the system would quickly analyze this data to determine if the driver was about to hit the gas, apply the brakes, or turn the steering wheel. The vehicle could then initiate the action before the driver does to reduce the reaction time.
Even though Nissan has already started testing this technology, experts believe that there’s still a long way to go before it is widely accessible to automotive consumers.
The Benefits of Connectivity in the Cockpit
There are many benefits to increasing connectivity in vehicles. Perhaps the biggest benefit of connectivity is it allows consumers to stay connected to their devices at all times–even when they’re on the road. Staying connected is often viewed as an essential need in today’s world, and connected cars would allow consumers to truly stay plugged in wherever they go.
Experts believe that technologies such as V2V communication and AI could help drivers avoid accidents. If this is the case, connected vehicles could potentially save thousands of lives every year.
Connectivity may make the driving experience more enjoyable, too. Thanks to connectivity, drivers and passengers will have access to more information and entertainment than ever before. Drivers can use this information to steer clear of traffic congestion, get directions, and avoid safety hazards, whereas passengers could use this technology to watch videos, use apps, or enjoy other forms of entertainment until they reach their final destination.
Maintaining a connected car would also be much easier for car owners. Experts believe these vehicles will be equipped with technologies that monitor a vehicle’s performance to identify potential issues and determine when maintenance is needed. Car owners would not need to remember the date of their last oil change. Instead, they would simply need to wait for their vehicle to tell them when it’s time for the next one.
There’s no telling when automotive manufacturers will debut the first fully connected vehicle to consumers. But one thing is for certain: the arrival of the first fully connected vehicle will completely transform the consumer driving experience.