Connected car technology will have profound implications not only for consumers, but also for businesses and their employees.
It would be hard to imagine driving without access to a GPS navigation system, whether on a smartphone or integrated directly into the car. These services often provide a wide range of supplemental capabilities, such as the locations of nearby restaurants, lodging, gas stations, or emergency assistance, helping travelers make the most of their time. Live-person help and panic-button features, and even the automatic notification of emergency personnel in the event of airbag deployment, add real convenience and a much greater degree of safety.
Increasingly, built-in Internet access in the form of cellular/Wi-Fi bridges is available as an option in some vehicles. The resulting connectivity for passengers enables not just entertainment such as streaming audio, but also the ability to get real work done. Additional wireless technologies, including RF and ultrasonic radars in bumpers, help drivers avoid collisions and maintain a safe distance between vehicles. Other features that are becoming common include unintended lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, automatic braking and self-parking.
But innovations like these are only the beginning. Two upcoming developments in connected car technology will yield even more valuable benefits.
The future of connected car technology
First is the interconnection of cars' networks via wireless mesh technology. This capability will enhance the reliability and capacity of in-car connectivity. Routing around dynamically shifting and failed nodes is easy, and the capacity of a given mesh implementation is directly proportional to the number of nodes connected.
The second, looking just a bit further out, is the rise of driverless cars. Today's experimental implementations of autonomous vehicles (which is a more accurate term) exist in relative isolation, but the concept becomes really powerful and effective when all vehicles are networked.
Collisions could be minimized if every car knew in real time what every other car was doing -- or, more importantly, what every other car was about to do. A system of networked driverless cars, using vehicle-to-vehicle communication, could create more optimized routes with better traffic flows. And here's the icing on the cake: It would also dramatically improve the productivity of passengers. Painful commutes become productive time, or at least time relatively free of stress. The car becomes another place where work (or well-deserved relaxation) can get done.
There are many other potential enterprise benefits of connected car technology, particularly in the logistics industry. But challenges remain. Key among these are ease of use and the minimization of driver distractions. Connected cars still need to make progress in providing intuitive and predictable user interfaces. Network security and integrity, of course, remain concerns as well, but really no more so than in every other application today.
Ultimately, though, productivity is the goal. As much as I like to drive, it will be exciting to be able to work on a project, conduct a meeting without fear of distractions causing a collision, or even relax a little while on the go.
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