• What is connectivity?
• Advantages of a connected car
• What to watch out for
• Future developments
Imagine the scenario: you find yourself having to drive at short notice to somewhere you’ve never been before. You not only want to find the best route, avoiding any traffic issues, but you need to book a hotel room, a restaurant for dinner, and you want to send a box of chocolates to thank your mum for looking after the children, book the kids into after school club for tomorrow, and you also want to record your favourite TV programme, have your hair done at a local hairdresser when you arrive at your destination and make sure your car is booked in for a service when you get back. Well, no need to worry, the car will take care of it all!
That might seem like a vision of the future, but much of the technology is already with us thanks to ‘Car Connectivity’. Anyone who has seen TV commercials for cars will have increasingly encountered this buzz phrase over the last few years. But what exactly is a connected car and what does it mean to you, as a motorist?
In its simplest terms, it means a car that is connected to the Internet – but the ramifications of what this can do for you stretch way further than you might imagine.
We have become used to our cars having electronic control units and gathering data from the various sensors built into them, which when a problem occurs, come up as warning lights on our dashboard and whose causes are accessible to technicians by plugging the car into a computer. We have also, for what seems like a long time now, had our mobile phones connected to our cars so that we can use them when we are in-car, to communicate with others.
Essentially connected cars are just a logical extension of these, but it is the car that is connected to other devices and systems. So, rather than relying on an external computer to diagnose things, or your phone to communicate outwards or receive data, the car has the capacity to do this itself.
The car is connected to the Internet (usually through a wireless local area network – modem in your car, if you like) allowing it to share Internet access and data both with your phone and other devices in the car, as well as other devices outside of the car.
Some of the great things that are increasingly available to us as drivers or passengers are the ability to remotely start up functions in our cars from our phones on a cold or hot day, so that we get into a car that is already at a temperature that we like. Many of our cars now mirror our smartphones on their displays and, in more and more cases, our vehicles are creating their own Wi-Fi hotspots, so that we can stream whatever we want during a car journey. Great for keeping the kids amused on a long journey and avoiding that perennial whiny question, “How much longer until we get there?”
Of course, connected cars are already not only proving useful to us in terms of entertainment, but they are often vitally important in emergency situations. With GPS positioning, cars can transmit their location to emergency services, helping them to quickly locate an incident and, indeed, EU legislation has mandated that since 2018, any new car built has a system in it to inform police about the car being involved in an accident.
Those ‘black boxes’ now fitted in many cars - especially by insurance companies - can at a glance offer huge amounts of information about the driving habits of the person at the wheel. This aspect of car connectivity, is also proving useful to manufacturers to help them gather information which will shape the car of the future.
We have been told that, ultimately, cars will be able to drive themselves and although much of the technology is already there for this, it will be some time before we are all merely passengers in our cars. In the meantime, cars that slow you down automatically if the car in front is too close, or stop you from wandering accidentally out of the lane you are driving in or have the ability to park themselves, are becoming our invisible driving partners. Connected cars will certainly assist in the journey to reach autonomous vehicles, but really that’s just another part of the story.
In short, the connected car has already truly arrived, is getting smarter day by day, and will most certainly play an increasingly important role in our daily existence for the foreseeable future.