Today’s cars commonly contain GPS navigation systems and Bluetooth connectivity. But the smart, connected vehicle has the potential to become much more.
Inclement Weather Safety
Smart car technology is in development to keep drivers safe in ill weather. Sensors in smart tires will be able to detect road conditions and respond accordingly to prevent skidding. Windshield wipers could turn on automatically in response to moisture. And smart headlights could dim on their own in foggy conditions. While current autonomous vehicles have trouble “seeing” in rain or snow, automakers are continuing to improve the technology. Recently an autonomous car drove through three inches of snow in Finland, though we may not see such vehicles on the market until 2025.
Smart Braking & Communication
In 2016, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced a commitment with car manufacturers that all new cars would have automatic emergency braking (AEB) as a standard feature no later than 2022. AEB is a system that detects a forward collision – such as another car or pedestrian in front the vehicle – and applies the brakes if the driver does not do so themselves. Though the system is currently imperfect, vehicles equipped with AEB have been proven to reduce the rate of rear-end collisions by 39%.
Toyota plans to release cars with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications systems by 2021. The technology allows vehicles to “talk” with each other. So, if a driver wanted to move into another lane but there was a vehicle in their blind spot, their car would know and alert them. Their car might also warn them at a busy intersection that another car is moving too fast and they should wait before moving forward. V2V technology could prevent over 600,000 accidents and save over 1,000 lives a year.
Capitalizing on Comfort & Commerce
As the future turns toward automated vehicles, designers are looking at the comfort of back-seat passengers – including turning the front seats of a car around to face the back. This design focuses on making car travel a more spacious and relaxing experience.
To increase passenger comfort, Amazon and Apple are exploring passenger profiles for autonomous vehicles. A camera, voice recognition or biometric system would recognize when a specific passenger entered the car and would tailor the ride to their preferences. This might include avoiding a route the passenger doesn’t like, keeping within a specific speed limit range or automatically activating child locks.
As vehicles become more connected, restaurants are looking to capitalize on in-car orders. Travelers already order food via phones, and restaurants and manufacturers are testing vehicle dashboards for ordering.
Efficiency from the Open Road to Parking Lots
With their ability to detect hazards faster than a human driver and to brake or change lanes efficiently, autonomous cars have the potential to improve traffic flow by 35%. The good news is we won’t have to wait for a fleet of smart vehicles to experience positive impacts. A single smart car could be enough to prevent traffic jams. Efficient driving also means a possible fuel savings of $6.2 billion a year in the US.
Parking will be more efficient with autonomous vehicles. Instead of driving in circles looking for the perfect spot, a driver could get out of the car at their destination and leave the car to park itself. Alternatively, connected vehicle technology could bring up a map for drivers that shows available parking spaces, enabling the driver to find a spot quickly.
The market value for connected vehicles is expected to grow to $212.7 billion by 2027, but we may not have to wait that long to see some of these exciting features. Tesla believes full autonomy is only three years away.