Internet of Things in the Automobiles

The Internet of Things is fast becoming a hot topic and a major field in technology. For the uninitiated, the Internet of Things is a network of physical objects that can be anything from heart monitors to vehicles that are capable of internet connectivity and actively exchange data between one another to achieve various outcomes such as remote monitoring, dynamic warning systems, feedback mechanisms etc. The car is more than just a tool for transportation.

It acts as a platform for mechanical and electronic breakthroughs pushing for better engineering ingenuity. As such, locomotives aren’t that far behind dish washers and thermostats in the implementation of IoT.

IoT in cars has a vast array of applications. We go through some of the most popular (and interesting) concepts currently in production and development.

Autonomous Control & Vehicle to Vehicle Communication

Driverless vehicle technology is the next big thing in the automotive industry. Manufacturers such as BMW, Audi and Tesla have made major strides in this field. However, while their systems do not incorporate IoT in its strongest form, we may see a shift in this mindset soon after self-driving cars become mainstream and the infrastructure allows it. Here, instead of a car operating independently–constantly scanning its surroundings with algorithms running to detect high danger scenarios — IoT will allow for communication between vehicles in real time.

Vehicle to Vehicle Communication will prove to be a useful system in the near future
Vehicle to Vehicle Communication will prove to be a useful system in the near future

As a result, more information regarding a car’s environment and other vehicles within a given area of effect is fed into its main processing units which gives rise to better, more accurate details with which the vehicle can calculate its next move. Consider this situation: an accident has occurred five kilometers ahead in the path of a traveling driver-less car that has resulted in a blockade. Although the car cannot “see” this accident, information regarding the accident has been recorded by vehicles via a host of sensors and on-board computers within the accident area. To prevent further traffic congestion, this information is passed onto cars that are set to use this route to reach their destination. Incoming vehicles receive this information and dynamically alter their routes to keep travel time at a minimum and clear the road ahead for any emergency services that may arrive at the scene.

Smart Sign Posts

Smart sign posts are traffic sign posts that display information via a digital display. The information displayed on the sign post changes dynamically with respect to changing traffic conditions to help drivers optimize driving techniques. Consider the very same example above. Soon after the emergency services arrive and clear the area of any casualties, debris from the accident must then be collected. This usually results in the concerned authorities setting up a small perimeter around the crash site and thereby reducing the number of usable lanes. A smart sign receives information of this act and reduces the speed limit displayed with an additional icon indicating road work ahead. The sign also transmits this data across to cars in its vicinity to let autonomous vehicles adjust current speeds and swap lanes if needed.

Smart sign posts allow drivers to learn additional context based information when on the road
Smart sign posts allow drivers to learn additional context based information when on the road

Over The Air Updates

Recalls happen all the time. While manufacturers test cars extensively, some errors or faults do fall through the cracks from time to time and make it to production. Currently, even if the fault can be fixed by minor changes to software, one must send the vehicle back to a service center for an update. With IoT however, updates can be pushed over the air (OTA) to reduce the hassle of actually driving the car to the service center. OTA updates can also add security fixes to a vehicle’s on-board computer system to reduce the risk of hacking and decrease manufacturer response times for such scenarios. Similar to a smartphone, a car’s infotainment system can also be updated over the air to ensure passengers have the very latest OS on board.

OTA updates improves convenience
OTA updates improves convenience

The concept of Internet of Things provides an almost infinite number of possibilities for the coming generations. IoT offers a future that provides increased safety and comfort unlike anything we’ve seen in the past. However, IoT does have a dark side. With more and more devices connected to the cloud, hackers will no doubt target such devices as well. While one can ensure exhaustive testing is done on security systems, software is never fully secure and will result in relatively harmless acts of mischief or open up a window for high profile terrorist attacks.

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