Connected Cars Of The Future

By Branko Miletic

Car technology in the 21st century is not just about what is under the hood – whether it be a fuel-injected super speedstar, or one of the trendy hybrids that have been released ove the past couple of years. What's on the dashboard, in the glovebox, or hanging from the windshield.

According to IT consulting company iSupply, by 2016, nearly 63 million cars worldwide will be connected to the internet. In relative terms, that figure may seem a drop in the ocean, but, once these technologies take hold, the growth will be exponential.

So, what sort of technologies will be in a car that isn’t there now? For a start there will be technologies like enhanced reality GPS systems, as well as ‘autonet WiFi’, or in-car internet. These vehicular Wi-Fi packages will allow any Wi-Fi enabled device to be connected to the car itself.

But these technologies will be just the beginning. Vehicle to Vehicle, or V2V, is one of the news technologies that the experts say will boom.

Bascially, V2V makes vehicles communicating nodes; in other words cars, trucks and buses that will give each other information, such as safety warnings and traffic flows. These will at first be a safety enhancement, however as time passes, many more things will be possible on the V2V network.

By using a 5.9 GHz band with bandwidth at 75 MHz, and an approximate range of 1000m, the network will allow data transfer between vehicles. Other uses of V2V may include speed limit warnings, other policing issues, as well as payments on tollways and parking stations, and also direction and route assistance.

Anyone that has driven a Toyota Prius will recognise this type of technology in that car’s automatic overtaking technology as well as its anti-collision software.

After V2V, the next step is V2I or vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, and this is where it all gets a bit Sci-Fi. Companies such as Audi have already tested this idea with some pretty good results and are set to release the first models very soon, although only in Germany to begin with.

V2I basically infers that cars will be able to connect to infrastructure objects such as traffic signals, thereby cutting down on both pollution and accidents. With Audi’s concept, which is called ‘Travolution’, the idea behind the design started off to cut down on pollution and fuel-consumption by reducing idling at stoplights and, in some cases, the need to stop at all.


The system, which would work on both 3G and Wi-Fi can even take control of a vehicle in some instances to prevent it from running a red light or hitting a safety barrier and it will give drivers information about the upcoming traffic lights and even weather conditions at their destinations.


But Audi is not the only company playing with this idea – Honda, Toyota and General Motors are all testing V2I in one way or another.


In many ways, V2I is similar to what airplanes use – ILS or Intelligent Landing System, which basically takes control of a plane during landings and even rough weather. The V2I is just a road-based version of that and as such, means that in the not-to-distant future, putting your car into cruise control may mean a completely different thing it does today.


According to one such local manufacturer of V2I, Embedded Systems Australia, V2I communication “enables vehicles to see around corners, over hills and beyond visual obstructions to know all about the movements of surrounding traffic.  Each vehicle can 'watch' and communicate with all vehicles for more than 100 metres in all directions as well monitor the status of traffic lights, variable speed signs etc.  Similarly, it enables infrastructure to know about the traffic and communicate with vehicles”.


And according to Cornelius Menig, head of the Audi V2I project, "Our objective is a strategic alliance between carmakers, suppliers, the telecommunications industry and the public sector. As for us: we're ready to go today."

Yes, the carmakers are ready to unleash the smart car on us, but are we ready for it? Probably for the technology, but the cost? That is yet to come.