When driv­ing is just sit­ting

Howard Blake con­nects the dots in a near fu­ture in which cars are part of the In­ter­net of things

The Witness - Wheels - - INDUSTRY -

THOUGHT F1 was fast- paced? The speed of in­no­va­tion in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try makes it look like a don­key cart race.

The last few years have seen the de­vel­op­ment of dis­rup­tive new tech­nolo­gies that are set to change the face of so­ci­ety for­ever.

Ever since the first Ford Model T hit mar­kets around the world, peo­ple have been ob­sess­ing about what the car of the fu­ture might look like.

While the cen­tury since the Model T’s in­ven­tion has brought plenty of changes to the au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try, the cur­rent crop of in­no­va­tions rep­re­sents a mas­sive shift.

At this year’s Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show ( CES), it be­came clear that the fu­ture of cars is less about horse­power and more about em­pow­er­ing driv­ers.

Ma­jor mo­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers are seek­ing out ways to do this us­ing con­nected tech­nolo­gies.

The car of the fu­ture will be smarter. It will be in­creas­ingly in­tu­itive. It will be in­ter- con­nected. Imag­ine a world where cars are able to com­mu­ni­cate with other cars, traf­fic lights, and park­ing bays.

Imag­ine be­ing able to ac­cess real- time up­dates on ev­ery­thing from the weather to the state of the road, all de­liv­ered straight to your dash.

A car that can do all of the above has been the sub­ject of sci­ence fic­tion for decades.

It’s thanks to the in­creas­ing amount of dig­i­tal con­ver­gence — wear­ables and smart devices in par­tic­u­lar — that this is be­com­ing a re­al­is­tic op­tion.

The data- driven ve­hi­cle

The jour­ney to­wards the self- driv­ing car of­ten grabs the head­lines at CES, but there’s a lot of juicy stuff out­side the bub­ble of driver­less ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy.

Many of this year’s most ex­cit­ing re­veals at CES spoke to the In­ter­net of things ( IoT) and the po­ten­tial of con­verged tech­nolo­gies to rad­i­cally change the way we work, live and drive.

Take Gen­eral Mo­tors, which un­veiled an app that al­lows your smart­phone to in­ter­act with your ve­hi­cle. The app will al­low driv­ers to start the car re­motely, ad­just the tem­per­a­ture and even park the ve­hi­cle au­to­mat­i­cally.

None of th­ese fea­tures are new in their own right, but the con­ver­gence as­pect — hav­ing ac­cess to all of this from a sin­gle point — is ground­break­ing.

This is just the start. As th­ese tech­nolo­gies ma­ture, we should see a wider sys­tem of in­te­gra­tion, en­com­pass­ing cities, in­fra­struc­ture, in­sur­ance, and even retail. Con­nected cars are set to de­liver a never- be­fore- seen ar­ray of dig­i­tal pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Life chang­ing and life­sav­ing

At CES this year, The DJI De­vel­oper Chal­lenge put for­ward a chal­lenge to de­vel­op­ers, to cre­ate a drone- to- ve­hi­cle sys­tem in or­der to speed up emer­gency re­sponse pro­ce­dures, in hopes of sav­ing more lives.

Other top show­cases in­cluded Smartwheel, a steer­ing wheel cover that mon­i­tors hands on the wheel to dis­cour­age tex­ting while on the road, and BMW’s i8 Mir­ror­less con­cept, which uses a func­tional cam­era sys­tem, de­signed to com­pletely re­place side and rear- view mir­rors.

While it is clear that smart tech­nol­ogy, big data and IoT are the new ports of call for the au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try, it is in­ter­est­ing to note that the vast ma­jor­ity of th­ese new tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances are aimed at im­prov­ing safety and driv­ing com­fort.

The Mercedes- Benz’s ‘ me’ con­cept is the per­fect ex­am­ple.

By col­lect­ing data on a driver’s his­tory, a car can cus­tomise its be­hav­iour to suit their life­style and habits.

A car could sug­gest des­tina- tions, au­to­mat­i­cally cor­rect for poor driv­ing habits and more.

The wider world

So what does a con­verged so­ci­ety full of smarter, more user- friendly cars look like? Very dif­fer­ent in­deed. Cars make up such an im­por­tant part of our life­styles, that few aspects of so­ci­ety would not feel the change.

Just think of the im­pact that a con­nected car, able to nav­i­gate the most op­ti­mised routes and avoid traf­fic, would have on ur­ban plan­ning.

In an­other sce­nario, it would be pos­si­ble for the in­sur­ance in­dus­try to im­prove their pre­mi­ums, based on data col­lected by their cus­tomers’ ve­hi­cles.

Could we see whole in­dus­tries de­velop out of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, pro­vid­ing en­ter­tain­ment and mar­ket­ing to a driver who no longer needs to drive?

Mo­tor­ing is hardly the only in­dus­try that will drive th­ese changes. You can see IoT’s im­pact across the rest of CES – where con­verged tech­nolo­gies are plen­ti­ful.

But be­cause au­to­mo­bile mak­ers are so tech­no­log­i­cally in­no­va­tive, it’s one of the in­dus­tries that can best demon­strate the sheer dis­rup­tive power of con­ver­gence on so­ci­ety. The beauty of con­ver­gence is that it opens up a uni­verse of pos­si­bil­i­ties for in­no­va­tion across all in­dus­tries.

Dig­i­tal pi­o­neers will be the ones who are best able to adapt to the new chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties of this rapidly evolv­ing so­ci­ety.

The race to make the most of th­ese con­nected tech­nolo­gies is on. The ques­tion is, who will be in pole po­si­tion?


Howard Blake, founder of Blake Hold­ings, with the i3, BMW’s ur­ban elec­tric hatch that is help­ing re­shape traf­fic as we know it.

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