As cities and population across the world continue to grow, people are spending more time in their cars. The automotive industry is hence looking at ways to enable people utilise this time in a better way. In addition, there is focus on establishing connectivity between the cars, smartphones and infrastructure. Once the cars are able to seamlessly communicate with each other, phones and other systems, there will be a significant increase in safety and traffic movement along with a reduction in emissions and fuel-consumption.
Many OEMs and suppliers are developing technologies to fulfill the above mentioned. In the present times, people are already benefitting from car and phone connectivity. A new trend in this respect is the use of cloud services, which can offer seamless connectivity between multiple platforms. One of the latest developments in this area has been that of the association of Volvo Car Group and Ericsson.
Ericsson’s Connected Vehicle Cloud will allow vehicle occupants to connect to various services available from the cloud. Applications for information, navigation and entertainment can be accessed from the car’s console screen. Volvo will also open some parts of the platform for other automotive companies, ensuring better connectivity for a wider spectrum of consumers. Content providers such as internet radio providers, road authorities, toll operators and city governments will also be part of the cloud through various agreements.
Another technology with similar offerings is Toyota’s Integrated Transport Systems (ITS), which uses radio communication between vehicles, road infrastructure and pedestrians to prevent collisions. Part of ITS is the Intelligent Clearance Sonar technology, which can detect obstacles beyond the driver’s sightline. If required, the system can automatically apply brakes and prevent an imminent collision. Toyota has established a new proving ground spread across 3.5 hectares to test the ITS. The area simulates city road environment, complete with traffic signals. Here, the company will test road to vehicle communication using a 700 Mhz radio frequency in simulated traffic conditions. The transmission band is claimed to have the right reception breadth and quality for connecting with vehicles at junction and other areas, where the driver’s line of sight might be limited. When functional, the technology can help improve fuel-efficiency and road safety significantly.
Honda has V2X Communication, which enables cars to communicate with each other and the transport infrastructure. It can alert drivers about traffic jams ahead, bad weather, road works and broken vehicles. Using this data, drivers can save fuel and time over their journeys, which will become safer.
Apart from the companies mentioned above, almost all companies are working on vehicle connectivity in different ways. The idea is to use the network of cars and motorcycles to inform each other of situations ahead, which may delay the commute or pose safety hazards. The mass shift to smart phones presents an opportunity and challenge for engineers at the same time. Usage of such phones will significantly lower the requirement to design and develop a lot of hardware and some bit of software. The challenge, however, will be to ensure that systems are compatible with multiple platforms at the same time and integrate with them seamlessly.
There are already cars in the market that allow users to access a lot of features remotely, resulting in greater convenience. As time passes, such features will trickle down to more affordable cars. Development of a vehicle and infrastructure connectivity environment is the need of the hour as it will greatly help in better traffic flow, better safety and efficiency, all of which are the thoughts that automotive engineers today wake up to everyday.