Connected cars: On the road to 2020

What will the world’s roads look like by 2020? In the top 10 cities for traffic congestion, rush hour journeys take twice as long on average. Emissions are forcing governments to take drastic action. It’s clear something has to give.

Enter the smart car

At CES 2016 Toyota unveiled plans to deploy Livio’s SmartDeviceLink (SDL).

SDL is a system for connecting drivers to their vehicles via apps, voice recognition and touchscreen interfaces. These types of infotainment systems are usually proprietary, which means drivers can’t transfer their apps between cars. But here’s the thing: SDL is open source, which makes transfers possible.

What happens if other manufacturers follow this trend?

It’s incredibly expensive and time-consuming to develop apps for specific cars. But if apps can be built for platforms, and used across vehicles? It’s a game-changer. More developers will enter the market. More apps will be available for drivers. More data will be generated…

Joining the data dots

The Japanese car manufacturer also announced plans to build a data centre as part of its next-generation connected cars framework. In a statement, Toyota revealed: “To build the IT infrastructure needed to support this significant expansion of vehicle data processing, the company will create a Toyota Big Data Center (TBDC) in the Toyota Smart Center.”

Cellular networks will transmit real-time analysis of vehicle data via Data Communication Modules (DCM). These will be in each car, giving drivers instant access to relevant services and products. If a car’s airbag is activated, this triggers an emergency notification. Response times will be improved, enabling any potential problem to be addressed quickly.

The announcement omitted details such as location or size of the data centre. However, DCM-equipped cars are set to be released in the US in 2017. By 2019, Toyota hopes to have a globally standardised DCM architecture.

Internet of Everything

The move shows how the Internet of Things is coming to vehicles. The next step will be to incorporate this into the surrounding infrastructure. And that’s something Audi is already working on.

The German automobile manufacturer has developed a traffic light system which integrates with its vehicles.

Designed to keep traffic running smoothly and minimise emissions, it enables drivers to use apps and automate parts of their journey.

A car waiting at a red light can have its engine switched off automatically, and then switched on five seconds before it’s due to change to green. The standard sat-nav can be transformed to deliver “real images of your environment up to 30 meters, then Streetview.” And, perhaps most importantly for city drivers, automated parking sensors can direct vehicles to empty spaces.

“This decade it’s being connected seamlessly with custom infrastructure and other vehicles,” explains Andreas Reich, head of electronic pre development at Audi. “We bring the internet to the car. The driver should get all the information he needs while he is driving.”

Driving the change

What does this mean for the future?

Certainly, more car manufacturers will begin taking advantage of in-car technology. By 2020, 250 million connected vehicles are expected to be on the road.

It’s less certain how many will follow Toyota’s example and build their own data centre. Either way, delays in data transmission could have a major impact on a brand’s reputation, as well as on city infrastructure. So it’s up to data centres to become the engines of the connected car era.

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