04.02.20 Past Master Martin Payne

The connected car – is it the future?

Past Master Martin Payne considers the future of motoring with an ever-increasing population, and asks the following questions:
Climate change – have we reached the point of no return?
Are our basic freedoms and driving pleasures being eroded?
Does everything have to be ‘SMART’ these days (viz smart motorways/smart cities), and should we drive smart or connected cars?
Is your car ‘connected’?
What exactly is a connected car?
Are we heading for autonomous vehicles?

Experts define a connected car as one which can be linked to other services and devices via a network. Along with laptops and mobile phones, this also includes other connected car technology, your own home, office, or parts of infrastructure such as traffic signals or emergency centres.

Taking on megacity challenges with networking
So-called smart-city development concepts confront these challenges principally with technology-based solutions.
The highly developed smart city is characterised by all-encompassing network. In theory, sensors in almost every location constantly capture data and save this data in a cloud. Intelligent power grids, so-called smart grids, would be better equipped to counter performance fluctuations – most of which come about from renewable energies – than current systems can. Cars are becoming a part of inner city networks, and a connected car will continuously share information from the cloud as well as its own environment – ideally, at least.

The history of the connected car
There are many great possibilities with a connected car, but let’s return to its beginnings.

The connected car in Formula 1
The connected car began with BMW in 1980: The year in which BMW integrated the on-board computer for Formula 1. This passed vehicle data on to the box – in other words, vehicles in the highest division of motors were linked up with their environment. This successful technology transfer made them the pioneers of the connected car series.

Connected cars with an emergency call function
In 1996 the first cars were equipped with an emergency call function. The vehicle could register an accident and automatically call the nearest emergency centre. Nowadays, emergency call systems communicate their coordinates independently, something made possible in 1999 with the first GPS-capable mobile phone. We should note that the introduction of the GPS system to cars is not at all the same as a navigation system, which was already a component of some cars.

First remote-controlled function
Vehicle diagnostics, also known as remote diagnosis, have produced a connection between users and their cars across vast distances since 2001. With vehicle diagnostics, car manufacturers can examine the system’s functionality and, if there are any problems, potentially recognise the cause more quickly.

SIM cards in vehicles
In 2004 the SIM card first entered private cars. All in all, the SIM card was a further important step towards the connected car.
In 2007, the mobile gives way to the smart phone. From then on, simple mobile phones gave way to smart phones. The first car to make an internet hotspot available for cars also hit the market in 2008. This was followed by the first smart phone apps for the connected car in 2008, which could lock and unlock the doors, for example. Since 2012 the MirrorLink service has made it possible to operate selected smart phone apps via the car’s infotainment system.
Connected cars and connectivity categories
Since 2010 some cars have been capable of exchanging information with their environment – other vehicles, the cloud and pedestrians – thus creating different advantages and opportunities for traffic. This networking of cars is subdivided into different categories:

What is V2I – vehicle to infrastructure?
V2I is vehicles’ communication with their environment. Weather data also flows in, to provide warnings about difficult conditions such as heavy rain, gusty wind or black ice. If car parks communicate their availability in future, the search for a parking space will use up less time, less energy and less fuel. Traffic lights could communicate the length of their different signal phases to vehicles, allowing autonomous vehicles and driver assistance systems to adapt their speed in the most energy-efficient way possible. In the future, heavy goods vehicles will request signal priority to stop as little as possible at traffic lights.

What is V2V – vehicle-to-vehicle communication?
In vehicle-to-vehicle communication, the connected car communicates with other vehicles nearby. Broken-down vehicles can warn their environment of this, improving the safety of road users.

What is V2C – vehicle-to-cloud communication?
Among other things, it includes modern navigation systems that calculate the optimal route according to current traffic conditions. Modern car-sharing systems are not workable without V2C.
A logical consequence of all of this is that cars collect data to inform the driver.

What is V2P – vehicle-to-pedestrian?
V2P improves communication between cars and pedestrians. With pedestrian recognition and a warning system, the car should alert both road users of hazardous situations such as possible collisions.
According to a report from the European Road Safety Observatory published in 2018, almost 29% of road fatalities are non-motorised road users, so primarily pedestrians and cyclists.
Through V2P, a driver’s intention with a wave could be replaced by the car and a signal.
Both car drivers and pedestrians will be warned of an impending collision.

What is V2X – vehicle-to-everything communication?
Manufacturers use the communication level V2X to refer to an intelligently networked transport system in which all vehicle and infrastructure systems are interlinked.

Connected cars in the ‘smart’ city
In the long term, vehicles will be fully integrated into our digital lives. Smart phones, smart watches, laptops and cars: Devices and services will not stand alone but integrate with one another. The autonomous vehicle of the future is difficult to imagine without the technologies of the connected car, and history shows just how quickly the innovations of tomorrow can develop into the standards of today.