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IoT Cars: Tech On The Road

Self-driving cars may not be headed for Indian roads anytime soon, but the others are getting topped up with tech

The modern car is now 130 years old, a remarkable invention indeed. Ever since it first hit the roads back in 1900s, it has been evolving thanks to the fast-paced growth of technology. Car makers have been constantly working on making cars faster, safer, smarter and more fuel efficient. Today, while all the four aspects remain the key focus in auto technology, the newest addition is all about connecting cars and those who use them to the outside world in a smooth and safe manner.

A connected car is really one that has Internet access and local connectivity for additional benefits to the driver. That includes anything from speed notification and safety alerts, to traffic alerts to navigation. Usually a connected car relies on the head-unit or the in-car entertainment unit which displays information and functions. These include music, launching smartphone apps, navigation, roadside assistance, voice commands, parking assistance, engine controls, car diagnosis, etc. Connected cars also take advantage of the user’s smartphones, and through apps one can interact with the car using a smartphone. Users can lock or unlock their cars, locate the car remotely, activate the air-conditioning, check the status of batteries on electric cars and a lot more.

Prasad Satyavolu, head of Innovation, Manufacturing and Logistics at Cognizant says, “Personal mobility in India continues to be a potpourri of options mired in societal and environmental issues. The evolution of the future connected car has many dependencies on these factors. Urban congestion, rising incomes and aspirational buys are just some of them. The evolution of connected cars in India needs to address these deep urban planning issues besides improving consumer experience.” According to him, ultimately, the factors of demand in India will be governed by three key aspects: aspirations, convenience and cost. For Indian cities, semi-urban and rural areas, the biggest constraining factor would be congestion and therefore the time to commute. “This factor is soon approaching decision points on regulations and policy frameworks such as the odd-even program in Delhi,” says Satyavolu.

In-car Platforms
Since Android and iOS are the top smartphone platforms, both Apple and Google have their own in-car platforms for which they have partnered with major car companies. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are customised systems for infotainment centres which allow seamless connectivity of smartphones to the car’s in-dash system. This allows easy access to smartphone’s navigation, phone, entertainment, and texting abilities. Maruti Suzuki has already introduced and become the first in India to introduce the Apple CarPlay infotainment system for premium buyers of Baleno. Other manufacturers are also expected to bring in these systems to their cars this year.

Drive Safe
India accounts for more than 2,00,000 deaths because of road accidents, according to the Global Road Safety Report, 2015 which was released by the World Health Organisation. This is 46 per cent more than the national statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), back in July 2015. Safety is a huge concern for car makers and that is where technology is being put for the best of use. Some of the safety features that are expected to become a norm among cars are:

Adaptive Cruise Control
Laser and radar sensor systems can adjust cruising speeds to maintain a safe following distance. This helps in reducing driving fatigue, although it isn’t the safest system. One can maintain a specific distance from the car up ahead and also set a speed limit.

Backup Camera
This is one of the most quickly adopted safety features. With a backup camera, pedestrians, vehicles or any unseen danger is immediately revealed making it safer. These cameras also make parallel parking much easier with a clear view to the rear.

Automatic Warning And Braking
Laser guided sensor and cameras are available to either alert the driver to approaching obstacles or automatically hit the brakes. Vehicles with front or rear hazard alerts are said to reduce accident risk by 7 per cent and automatic braking systems can result in 14 per cent fewer crashes. Brake assist is an important added feature which can help a driver in stopping the car quicker. Then there is Mercedes’ Pre-Safe and other high-end systems which tighten seat belts, adjust headrests, prime air bag pumps or close windows once the situation turns hazardous.

Blind Spot Warning
Blind spots can get annoying and can even distract the driver. Blind Spot Warning lights near the side mirrors automatically illuminate when a vehicle or any other object occupies either of your blind spots.

Adaptive Headlights
Headlamps in upcoming cars will be smarter and use less energy thanks to the adoption of LED lamps. Mazda is already incorporating headlamps in which the high-beams automatically turn on when it’s really dark, and when it detects other vehicles it turns them off.

Park Assist
High-end models of Mercedes already come with an automatic parking assist feature which doesn’t require the drive to steer or accelerate while parking.

Looking Ahead
The future is quite promising for cars; apart from being connected, they soon won’t be needing a human being to drive them. Self-driving or driverless cars are in their testing phase and Google has been quite keen on making the concept a reality. The company’s self-driving car is being developed by Google X as part of its project to develop technology for electric cars. A new concept for their driverless car was shown off in May 2014, which had no steering wheel and no pedals and later went on to unveil a fully-functioning prototype which began testing in San Francisco just last year. While the concept is still in its primary stage, Google believes that it can make these cars available to the public in the year 2020.

Now that’s a lot of time and we are still several years away from mass-market availability of self-driving cars, but a bunch of necessary functionality is available on mainstream models today. Cars are already looking ahead, behind and to the side, they can steer, brake and even park themselves, and automakers are working to have them talk to each other.

 One of the biggest buzz makers in the automotive industry for the past couple of years has been a company called Tesla; it has fully-equipped electric cars. Electric cars rely on highly efficient rechargeable batteries to propel the engine rather than using fuel like petrol or diesel. These cars have close to zero emissions and are also quieter than traditional cars. Tesla has been working on such cars since 2008 and first gained attention following its production of the Tesla Roadster, the first fully-electric sports car. The company’s second vehicle, the Model S, which is a fully-electric luxury sedan, has been quite successful with global sales of the car surpassing the 100,000 unit mark in December 2015, three and a half years after its introduction. It was also the world’s bestselling plug-in electric vehicle in 2015 and ranks as the world’s second bestselling plug-in car in history after Nissan Leaf. Tesla’s third car, the Model X, which is a crossover, began shipping in September 2015.

The coming years will see well-known car brands bringing in electric as well as hybrid cars for consumers. General Motors recently showcased the new Chevrolet Bolt at the North American International Auto Show; it could be a game changer as it was unveiled as the first ever mass-produced electric car with a 200-mile (322 kmp) range with a price tag of less than $30,000 (approximately Rs 21 lakh).

According to Satish Jadhav, director, IoT, Embedded Sales Group, Intel South Asia, Automakers are beginning to deliver improved driving safety and convenience through the development of next-generation advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Cars will become safer and more efficient as they grow increasingly aware of and react to the surrounding driving environment and conditions. Real success will mean the democratisation of ADAS, in which the technology is available in entry-level to premium vehicles, for first-time drivers to seniors, in passenger and commercial vehicles, and everywhere in between. And sooner than we ever thought, ADAS technology will deliver self-driving capabilities to production automobiles. To enable next-generation ADAS — and ultimately realise the promise of self-driving vehicles — cars will need numerous sensors to gather the necessary information about the driver’s constantly changing surroundings and the ability to “fuse” the data (~1gb/sec) from these various sensors in order to make safe decisions. The sensors will be part of a larger constellation of technologies that include light detection and ranging (LIDAR), radar, advanced camera technologies, and GPS, among others. Besides sensors, more computing power will be needed inside the car, as well as low power and security management and the seamless connection to datacenter and the entire eco-system. A handful of automakers have already committed to introducing self-driving vehicles as early as 2020. But they cannot do it alone.

Collaboration will be the engine that drives the transformation as car makers nurture relationships with the right technology companies that bring track records of experience addressing these key challenges from compute to security. Together with these technology partners, the most competitive automakers will lead the way in defining the future of the industry — and the driving experience. Currently, Intel is working with several automotive leaders including Magneti Marelli, Harman, BMW, Porsche, Jaguar Land Rover, Fiat Chrysler Auto, Ford and GM to deliver on this promise. For instance, Intel and BMW have been collaborating to deliver innovative solutions to the automotive industry for some time now. BMW’s ConnectedDrive system with Intel Inside is just one example of these efforts. The collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover is on building Intel RealSense technology in automobiles that allows car to turn the car as the ultimate consumer device — a car that “knows” you and provide the services you need automatically.

Clearly, the driving force of collaborative IoT innovation is impacting all industries, especially automotive. Building on these most recent advancements announced today, we will continue to work hand-in-hand with industry leaders to bring cutting-edge technology to the automobile at a pace that meets consumers’ evolving demands. With Moore’s law as our guide, the road ahead knows no limits.”