Connected cars: the near future

The near future for connected cars will see currently existing technology being made more widely available. While most of today’s connected cars essentially link your car to your mobile device, next we’ll see cars with their own internet connection and technologies to make sure this doesn’t drop out. We’ll also see more driving responsibilities being taken over by your car.

The more-connected car

Whereas today, your car probably gets its connectivity via your mobile device, in the near future your car will have its own connection to mobile networks. SEAT’s upcoming technologies, for example, will use your car’s radio antenna to maintain connections where your phone usually drops out.

A car with its own connection and software designed specifically for driving, should be better than a car that adapts your Smartphone’s already existing apps (like Google Maps).

As I mentioned in the last article, you can expect to be able to control more of your car from your phone. Existing technologies will be brought together in a more coherent way, so for example, you won’t need one app to tell you where your car is parked, and another one to remotely turn on your air-con.

You’ll be able to manage the interior of your car too, from temperature to driving position and preferred radio stations. With the correct profile selected, you will be able to simply enter your car and drive away, without any of the setting up we do today.

All of this is possible now, but upcoming systems look to make a better integrated experience. So you won’t need a bunch of separate apps to manage the various features of your automobile, but just one.

More and more cars will be compatible with Google’s Android Auto, and Apple’s CarPlay. Both these systems give you the advantage of being made by software-focused companies. This means well integrated services, and smooth running interfaces. Touchscreens in cars are nothing new, but car manufacturers have not proven themselves as great at designing interfaces – both Apple and Google are unlikely to have this problem.

New displays

Beyond your dashboard screen, some companies, like Spain’s LABS4GLASS are creating heads-up display systems that will project onto your windscreen. This translucent display seems even better in terms of keeping your eyes on the road. This technology will work in conjunction with your smartphone too, offering you a seamless experience from the street to the cockpit. Instead of your dashboard touchscreen taking over smartphone duties, an interface will be projected onto your windscreen.

Assisted driving in connected cars

We’ve had plenty of technology assisting our driving for years, from ABS and power steering, to cruise control. Proximity sensors are also commonplace, helping us park by telling is how close objects are around us. The connected car in the next couple of years will increase the number of driver aids available to us.

Highway cruising will require little more than monitoring, as your car’s sensors will allow it to maintain safe distance from the car ahead, while keeping the vehicle in lane. This isn’t fully automated driving, but it does offer some significant safety improvements.

BMW is developing technology called ‘ActiveAssist‘, which you can see in the video below. It’s an almost self-driving car, able to navigate highways without human assistance. Of course, it does need human monitoring, which begs another question – how do we stay alert when we don’t even have the tedium of driving to keep us awake?

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Sensors offer improved reaction times over humans, and cannot be distracted. This means bottlenecks of traffic around junctions should decrease, and the infamous highway pile-up should be less likely too. If you are nervous about computer controlled/assisted driving, you’ll still be able to take control whenever you want.

Still not time to hang up your driving gloves

The next two or three years will see much greater integration of connected technologies in our cars. Self-driving cars are looking more and more viable, but face regulatory challenges. Computer-controlled cars will inevitably require new laws, and governments are not famed for acting quickly. Furthermore, there’s the challenge of convincing the public that self-driving cars are safe.

I’ll look at what the fully automated self-driving car will offer us in the third part of this series on Connected Cars.

Related articles

What are Connected Cars?

See how Apple CarPlay works in this video

Google I/O 2014: Android Auto coming later this year

Follow me on Twitter @jonathanriggall

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