As connected devices become prevalent in our homes and workplaces, the technology to create and support a connected car ecosystem becomes ever more advanced. In fact, according to one forecast, there will be more than 380 million connected cars on the road by 2021, which, if correct, would fundamentally change the way we all live, work and drive. With the connected car having been identified as the fastest-growing technological device after the smartphone and tablet, we can only begin to imagine the range of capabilities we can come to expect in the space over the coming decade.
However, what we can be sure of is that when connected cars become a regular feature in our garages and on our roads, the experience of driving and being driven for the next generation of car users is going to be a very different one to what we’re used to now. Although there are numerous perceived benefits for car companies in terms of data acquisition, targeted marketing, and a range of new personalised in-car apps, products and services to offer customers, what exactly are the direct benefits to drivers and passengers in this connected automotive future? And when we turn our thoughts to other road users and the environment what potential advantages can connected cars offer which our current transport solutions cannot?
In this post we’ll be looking at the advantages for the user that driving or using a connected car can offer them, from safety through to personalised in-car experiences and everything in between. We’ll also be touching on the benefits for pedestrians and other non-car road users like cyclists and motorcyclists, as well as the positive environmental and sustainability opportunities we’ll have available to us when connected vehicles become the norm.
Road Safety Improvements
“Being connected to other cars on the road will eventually make driving much safer. Combined with predictive analytics, smart systems could substitute for a driver in case of emergency. Although these technologies are still developing — and some legislations should also be introduced — the future looks promising for self-driving and intelligent driving assistants.”
For many of us, safety is a huge concern — if not the biggest concern — when we think about what kind of car we are going to drive, where and how. And it’s no wonder. There are more than 1.25 million deaths worldwide caused by traffic accidents every single year, making road accidents the tenth leading cause of death worldwide. In the UK alone, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death in young men under the age of 20. Globally, more than half of road-related deaths are not car drivers, but “vulnerable road users”, ie pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
Although the problem is global, studies have found that middle-to-low income countries account for 90% of those fatalities, despite having only 54% of the world’s vehicles. According to one BBC report from 2008, road crashes kill 260,000 children a year, injure about 10 million and are the leading cause of death among 10–19 year olds, with the problem most severe in Africa and South-East Asia. It is thought the reason for this is related to the number of fatalities per car involved, with research finding drivers in lower income countries generally transporting more passengers within a single vehicle than drivers based in higher income countries.
Unless something significant changes soon, and permanently, road traffic crashes are predicted to become the world’s seventh leading cause of death by 2030.
How will connected cars improve safety?
As technology in vehicles continues to accelerate, the number of devices which can potentially connect to them increases. These devices are designed to make driving a car safer for passengers, drivers and other road users. When connected cars are able to communicate with town and city infrastructure like ‘smart roads’, traffic lights and up-to-the-minute warning systems, the high number of traffic accidents is very likely to be significantly reduced. Drivers will receive the latest reports on potentially dangerous road and weather conditions, upcoming collisions or diversions in their direct vicinity and any other need-to-know information will be sent straight to their dashboard.
There have been numerous reports on the improvements in safety that driverless cars will provide, with some car makers going so far as to suggest that their self-driving cars will be an even safer option than connected cars which have a driver behind the wheel. Whether or not this is true is yet to be confirmed, but what we do know is that sensory technology allows driverless cars to recognize and respond to risks on the road, as well as recognise each other, creating a much more aware driving environment which will no doubt play a huge role in road and passenger safety.
“The most important characteristic of dynamic systems is that the system be contextual. That is, it needs context and contextual information in order to be safe and accurate in its behaviors and responses to dynamically changing conditions. An enormously important source of that contextual information for vehicles on the road is from other vehicles, specifically from connected vehicles and connected sensors. Those connections deliver early warnings and other critical data for safe maneuvering in a dynamic environment.Therefore, the connected car not only provides infotainment to its passengers, but it also provides actionable information, safety recommendations, and contextual insights for the benefit of all drivers on the road.”
Kirk Borne — Principal Data Scientist at @BoozAllen
Sensory equipment instilled in new connected cars will become one of the key features of accident prevention in a connected future. And this future is not as far off as we might think. In fact, the installation of this technology is likely to soon become compulsory for new vehicles in the US. It was recently reported that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has put forward a proposal to make it a legal requirement for cars to be able to “talk” to each other. Assuming the law gets approved in 2019 as planned, carmakers will be required to begin building vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology into their cars in 2021, which would see all new cars equipped with the technology by 2023. Regulations such as these have the potential to make our roads considerably safer places to be for both car drivers and pedestrians.
If a situation arises where two cars are headed for a collision because one or both drivers are not paying adequate attention, the cars themselves could avoid that accident by applying the brakes, slowing down, or taking a different route. The cars would be communicating with each other on their movements and speeds, and would therefore be aware well before the drivers that an accident is imminent and avoid it.
The Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot, in Tampa, Florida, will be looking into how road safety can be improved when it starts trialling connected cars on its roads early next year. Researchers want to enable communication between roadways and other cars in order to receive updates, alerts and warnings about roadway conditions, speed limit changes, potential dangers ahead and more, in a move that could potentially save many lives.
The project will employ a total of ten streetcars to trial detection technology. This will be used to inform the car driver of when another connected vehicle is about to cross their path, therefore reducing the chances of collisions or near-misses and preparing drivers for potentially stress-inducing situations.
The Tampa project is just one of many similar projects taking place in cities throughout the world, as cities work towards achieving so-called “smart city” status.
What about emergency vehicles?
As well as the significant steps being made in accident prevention through connected technology, it’s important not to forget the many ways in which connected vehicles can aid the emergency services as well as reduce the impact that emergencies and emergency service vehicles have on other drivers, road users and pedestrians.
Further enabling the emergency services was one of the original drivers for connected automobile technology, with the likes of ambulances, police cars and fire engines likely to be the first to reap the rewards of any technological advances made in the field. Although we have now seen how the technology will influence all areas of driving, the advancement of emergency service vehicles still remains central to the development of the technology.
Beginning next year all new vehicles made by European car makers will be required by law to have an inbuilt emergency call system, eCall Capability.
How does eCall Capability work?
The car’s in-built modem contacts a first responder center in the case of an emergency. This can be done manually or automatically. It then sends the emergency services all of the information they need to deal with the situation. These details could include the vehicle identification number, time and place of incident and so on.
“The good thing about connected cars is the opportunity to integrate with other devices and systems, such as smart homes. When you can check whether a window is closed or get warned when someone enters your house, this brings in additional security to your premises.”
One of the most significant benefits of connected cars is the dramatic effect this technology can have on efficiency both for individuals as well as for fleets of vehicles, companies and public transport. Connected cars and related connected devices will be able to increase efficiency city-wide in smart cities through the use of vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology.
Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology is the term used when connected vehicles are able to communicate with their surrounding infrastructure, like roads, traffic lights, and buildings. When we think of efficiency savings both on an individual level as well as more widely, it is here that we can make a big impact on our own efficiency, but also collectively, on that of our towns and cities.
An example of vehicle-to-infrastructure technology would be when in-built vehicle technology is able to alert the car — and driver — that an oncoming traffic light is about to turn red. The consequence of that information being that he or she chooses another road, thus arriving at their destination sooner than anticipated. But it doesn’t end there.
V2I technology can also alert a bus or taxi of the upcoming traffic lights on its entire route, so the driver can choose to take a route which allows it fewer stops and starts. The result of this becoming commonplace is that journeys become smoother, are less likely to be interrupted or slowed down, and congestion will be foreseeable and therefore avoidable. In areas like these connected cars can help both citizens and cities make huge efficiency savings.
For fleets of vehicles like transportation lorries or rental cars increased connectivity can also play a big role in making efficiency savings. Connection to his or her fleet of vehicles (and not just to the drivers themselves) means that a fleet manager will have full access to the condition and performance of each vehicle, as well as the driver’s behaviour. Although GPS tracking data has long been used by such companies when looking for the location of a vehicle, more and more businesses are realising the value of integrating that GPS with their maintenance schedules to streamline their planning and increase efficiency, thereby keeping more vehicles on the road at any one time.
For rental car companies, customers can enjoy easy access to expert help if they need it and accurate information about their vehicle. Customer queries can be more accurately answered from a main service point when the exact status of the vehicle is known and the customer can have more confidence in what they’re being told.
Benefits For The Disabled
When we think of connected cars, and driverless cars in particular, the immediate advantages for the disabled are especially noteworthy. The increased freedom and autonomy a driverless car could offer the elderly, sight-impaired or otherwise disabled who are currently unable to drive themselves could literally be life-changing.
No longer would an individual need to rely upon a family member or friend to take them to the shops, nor would they need to incur the expense of paying for a carer to escort them to a social event or doctor’s appointment. The uncertainty of accessing not to mention waiting for and travelling on public transport would be eradicated, simultaneously eradicating the fear and trepidation that many elderly and disabled people feel about engaging with these often unreliable services. Once these barriers are removed through autonomous driving technology, disabled people are in a better position to apply for work and integrate more fully into society.
At this stage what’s key is that policy makers ensure it is those with the greatest mobility needs who are served first when this technology is made available, and barriers which could prevent the most in need from benefiting from autonomous vehicles be swiftly removed.
“As most people take having transportation options as a given, people with disabilities and the elderly may benefit most from these new developments. Autonomous driving technology has the potential to transform life for populations that are not able to get a driver’s license today. Game changing technology has the potential to allow more people with disabilities to go to work each day as these barriers to transportation are taken down by technology.”
When we think about the financial advantages that come from a future which has embraced connected cars, you might find nothing springs immediately to mind. Surely connected vehicles themselves aren’t going to be cheaper than the current models on the market, you may think. However, what’s easy to miss is how the efficiency savings we mentioned earlier will translate into huge financial savings for individuals, companies and governments as connected cars and devices become ever more widely used. After all, we all know that time equals money. So, what kind of savings are we talking about here?
It may interest you to know that collectively in Germany alone drivers sat in traffic congestion for a total of 21 years in the year 2011. This equates to a 450,000 kilometer traffic jam! In financial terms that amounting of waiting, inactivity and fuel use equates to a 100 million Euro.
With connected car technology, future drivers will be able to check on upcoming traffic congestion, accidents or roadworks by accessing real-time data and avoiding the affected areas before getting caught up in the problem. These measures will not only save time spent waiting around in a queue of traffic, but will also bring down the amount of fuel consumed by almost a quarter. This is confirmed by a study by Navteq which found that when Indian motorists have access to real-time traffic information they individually save three days per year that would otherwise have been spent in congestion.
“U.S. highway users waste a staggering 4.8 billion hours a year stuck in traffic — nearly one full work week, or vacation week, per traveler. The overall cost (based on wasted fuel and lost productivity) reached $115 billion in 2009 — more than $808 for every U.S. traveler.”
Prakash Darji — Former General Manager at SAP in his article: Why Connected Cars Are Poised To Have A Fundamental Impact
It’s not just individuals, companies and governments who can benefit from connected car technology, our environment could be a huge beneficiary if there were more internet-enabled cars on the road. With currently over 900 million cars on the world’s roads right now (with that number likely to rise to over one billion in the next 2 years) emissions from fossil fuel energy are a huge environmental concern. There are a few different ways in which IoT technology can help to bring these emissions down,
First of all, as we’ve already discussed here, once the most efficient method and route has been chosen — thanks to real-time data about road conditions, traffic and weather direct to the car’s dashboard — cars and drivers are on the road for less time and therefore using less fuel.
Our cars will also be able to tell us who is waiting for a lift on our route, so a driver could potentially pick up anybody waiting and travel with a full car instead of alone. Having fewer cars on the road with more passengers will obviously decrease the overall number of vehicles on the road and bring down the amount of fuel emissions.
In addition to these environmental advantages, many of the cars being built with connected car technology are right now also electric vehicles. What this means is that if someone is buying a connected car because of an interest in technology, they are also likely to be inadvertently buying a car that is better for the environment than an older, fuel-powered, model.
“The total amount of wasted fuel topped 3.9 billion gallons in 2009 according to the Texas Transportation Institute — 130 days of flow in the Alaska Pipeline (nearly a third of the year). Connected vehicle environmental applications will enable system users and system operators to make choices that reduce the environmental impacts of surface transportation travel.”
Prakash Darji - Former General Manager at SAP in his article: Why Connected Cars Are Poised To Have A Fundamental Impact
“While there are a good many of obvious benefits to a connected car, from safer cars to more economical use of road infrastructure, one of the less appreciated is the sheer amount of vital data that connected cars can capture and share. This is already leading to a revolution in how we insure cars, how we improve their designs, and how city builders and traffic managers can use both real-time and historical data to create far better and more effective driving experiences in the future.”
Dion Hinchcliffe — VP and Principal Analyst, The New C-Suite
Although for many users the prospect of their cars operating as data collection points for the marketing departments of major car manufacturers, internet companies and numerous others is unlikely to be seen (at least in the beginning) as a positive thing, there are actually many driver, passenger and general road user benefits to the accruement of personal data by external companies, governments and local city planners. These benefits vary from providing the information required to individualise the driver experience, to learning from user behaviour in order to improve road safety.
The experience of being a driver will be much more accurately documented when vehicles are able to monitor our behaviour, as well as record and share it. By observing exactly how drivers interact with their vehicles and trends among users in these interactions, companies will be able to make adjustments and improvements to their vehicles as well as offer the consumer more of what they want in terms of products and services and less of what they don’t want, thereby improving the experience of being a driver exponentially.
Personalisation of the driving experience will also become much more commonplace. With internet-enabled vehicles, drivers will have more freedom to choose the environment within which they travel and align it with their personal preferences. The internal car temperature, music, lights and more could all be controlled from a hand-held device like a smartphone or tablet, with personalised presets in place depending on who the driver of the car on any particular day is. Once the car has this data it can then recreate the chosen environment at the click of a button, or suggest other environments based on these preferences.
What this means from a marketing and product perspective is companies can refocus their efforts on marketing products of relevance to their customers and not waste their and their customer’s time trying to push the wrong products on the wrong people. With more connected vehicles on the road, the driving experience will become less and less generic and more and more personalised, which can only be a good thing for consumers in the long run.
From a town and city planning perspective, understanding how and more importantly why drivers behave the way they do will go a long way towards improving routes, roads and safety. Although we can currently track vehicle movement, it’s not always obvious what motivates specific driver behaviour on the road. Data from connected cars will provide a more rounded picture to those who work in devising new roads or work in accident prevention. This type of data will also feed directly into the other types of savings we have already talked about in this article: efficiency, environmental and economical.
This data will help local government make improvements that benefit all road users and increase efficiency for vehicle owners.
In this article we’ve seen the numerous ways connected cars will improve the lives of drivers, passengers and other road users, as connectivity between vehicles as well as connectivity between vehicles and infrastructure becomes evermore commonplace.
Covering the specific areas of efficiency, economy, road safety and the disabled community, we were already able to see the clear advantages connected vehicles can offer through the use of sensory technology to improve road safety, real-time information about road conditions to improve efficiency, safety and reduce fuel waste and journey time, and increased information for emergency and breakdown recovery vehicles through vehicle-to-vehicle data sharing.
However, what may have come as a surprise to some is the advantages connected vehicles can also present via the collection and analysis of our personal data with car manufacturers and internet companies.
As we have seen, once information about our driving habits and preferences is made available for sharing and analysis, we are all able to benefit from an overall safer, more individualised and pleasurable driving and in-car experience.
What are your thoughts on connected cars? Let us know in the comments below.