The DAV Foundation’s CTO Joins the Web Consortium’s Automotive Working Group

By Bradley Berman — Lead Editor

The World Wide Web is today taken for granted as a consistent and reliable facet of modern life. But the underpinning protocols that allow publishers and app developers to produce websites and online applications — and have that content appear in reliable and familiar ways whether you are viewing it on a smartphone, a laptop, or even a smart tv — didn’t just happen. Those standards were created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization that was founded nearly 25 years ago. The consortium is now working on new standards that will allow all cars to reliably run web applications and access data generated from a vehicle’s computer and infotainment systems.

Tal Ater, DAV CTO

Tal Ater, Chief Technology Officer at The DAV Foundation, this week became one of the four independent invited experts serving on the W3C’s Automotive Working Group. “I consider it one of the greatest honors of my career to be a part of one of the W3C’s working groups,” he said. The Automotive Working Group’s members include connectivity experts from both Internet and automotive firms, such as Alibaba, Baidu, Genivi, IBM, Jaguar, Land Rover, LG, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, and Volvo.

“W3C is the organization that decides what goes into HTML, JavaScript, and the other components of the web,” said Ater. “The W3C agrees upon the standards, the browser vendors implement, and the web follows.” The result is the proper and consistent display of web content — including apps, e-commerce, and games — regardless of which computer, browser, or screen is used.

Cars as Web-Enabled Devices

The W3C’s Automotive Group’s first specification is the “Vehicle Information Access API,” the protocol that defines how applications running in cars will access and share the car’s data — regardless of the year, make, and model of the vehicle. That data might be engine speed, tire pressure, state-of-charge of batteries, fuel efficiency, and if the doors are locked or the headlights are on.

“At the moment, it’s a pain point for even the world’s biggest car manufacturers that powerful car-based apps aren’t necessarily compatible with their vehicle platforms,” said Ater. “Imagine a world where mobile app developers had to build apps for not just iPhones and Androids, but for 15 different devices. It would completely stifle innovation, and reduce the incentive for developers to experiment and innovate. This is where the automotive world is today; each car uses different technology, and there isn’t one standard. The Automotive Working Group is working to change this.”

Today there are only a handful of car-based apps available to drivers. But imagine a near future in which your car’s dashboard offers a robust selection of thousands of connected-car applications. Regardless of the make or model, those apps would operate in the same way — all gaining access to vehicle operations, car-based sensor data, GPS, navigation, and infotainment. There is a treasure trove of data found inside each car waiting to be used in apps that enhance the driving experience and make a car safer.

Now go one step further and imagine developers working on apps for a decentralized network of autonomous cars, self-flying drones, smart cities, utilities, and public transport. Consider the kind of possibilities this will unlock. With such a decentralized, open framework, we would have the makings of a future Internet of Transportation.

Critically, the W3C’s Automotive Working Group diligently shares its activities with a community of developers, as well as the public. The shared documentation points to possible use cases — such as “virtual mechanics” who could remotely view vehicle status information about tire pressure, engine oil, or the level of windshield-washer fluid. However, the W3C’s mission is not to prescribe or limit how common protocols will be used, but rather to use standardization to unleash creativity from countless developers — both within and outside car companies.

“If that open approach sounds familiar, it’s because the DAV Foundation also works to create open standards for decentralized ecosystems,” said Ater. “When we have standards, innovation starts to happen and it becomes financially feasible for developers to build new applications that run across different cars.” Ater explained that what the W3C’s Automotive Working Group is doing to standardize web data and applications within the vehicle, the DAV Foundation is doing for connections between vehicles.