The self-interests of the auto industry and the electronics industry have aligned. The automobile has become the ultimate mobile computing platform. The car makers and OEMs have begun competing to add better Internet-computing applications. These are some of the most interesting tome.
Xconomy Detroit reports that Ford Motor Company (F) based in Dearborn, MI is designing vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems designed to prevent accidents. Ford’s “intelligent” vehicles can wirelessly transmit data between each other, such as location, speed, proximity, and brake status. Guided by sensors and cameras, the system can alert drivers to nearby accidents, or signal if they risk colliding with another vehicle at an intersection. “It’s like having a 360 degree pair of eyes,” says Mike Shulman, technical leader for Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.
Ford’s goal is to have intelligent cars on the road by 2016. “We kind of like to get it out as soon as we can,” Mr. Shulman says. CBS News reports that Ford’s demonstration vehicles will hit the road this spring, starting at major technology hubs across the country.
Ford’s work is part of an effort spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Transportation called IntelliDrive (Which I first wrote about in 2009). IntelliDrive’s goal is to develop a common communications platform for all vehicles to talk to each other, using 3G and 4G broadband technologies. IntelliDrive also envisions building infrastructure across the country that allows cars to “communicate” with roads, highways, and bridges, exchanging information on traffic patterns, road conditions, and weather. “IntelliDrive will help drivers bypass congestion, and it will reduce crashes by providing advanced safety warnings,” according to a report by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), a research group based in Ann Arbor, MI. “It will even be able to take over the vehicle when there is not enough time for the driver to react.”
Ron Miller at Internet Evolution recently posted an article that shows how Microsoft‘s (MSFT) reputation in the Auto industry has changed. Several years ago, there was a joke being emailed around about would happen if Microsoft built cars the way it built Windows. At the 2011 CeBIT technology fair, there were a number of examples of Microsoft in cars according to Mr. Miller.
The author points out that MSFT was showing off a Microsoft-centric, fully electric Smart Car with its control center as an app on your Windows 7 phone and not on the dash. The WP7 devices would display metrics such as the amount of power left in your battery, the expected distance you can travel for the amount of power on your battery, even the distances based on current battery life that are safe to reach, possible to reach, and questionable — all color coded on a Bing map. Since it’s a phone the car can be monitored from anywhere there is a cell signal.
The Internet Evolution article points out a second example of bringing Microsoft to the car. At CeBIT, Ford (F) CEO Alan Mulally was touting Ford SYNC, powered by Microsoft, the communications solution now being installed in Ford cars. Mr. Mulally wants to see the Ford automobiles be the “ultimate mobile device” according to the article.
Mr. Mulally described a system based on Microsoft’s next-gen unified communications product Lync using Nuance (NAUN) voice recognition to enable users to interact with the car and the mobile telephone sitting in the car’s cradle via voice commands, letting drivers keep both hands on the wheel while accessing features. It will also eventually offer direct access to emergency services, not a call center as with GM’s (GM) OnStar service.
Mr. Mulally says Ford made a conscious decision not to embed the Microsoft Lync system with the car’s other systems. He was careful to point out that the systems that run the car are separated from Lync by a firewall. The author says that most of us who have used Microsoft software appreciate that separation and continues I don’t think we are ready to go there just yet.
The Detroit Bureau reports that a consortium of eight manufacturers has set up shop in Farmington Hills, MI to work on car-to-car “Intelligent Vehicle” communications systems that would help stave off accidents. “If every car had it, it would be like another pair of eyes,” Ford Motor Co.’s (F) Mike Shulman, a technical research leader, stated.
The technology consortium would work to supplement, not replace, other high-tech safety systems. While Ford and others have worked on car-to-car communications systems for a number of years, the consortium reflects the fact that vehicles from different brands must be able to speak the same digital language. “We need to get messages from Hondas, Hyundais, Kias and send them all messages,” said Mr. Shulman.
Each of the eight makers will build eight new vehicles each equipped with the latest technology. Another 2,000 vehicles on the road will be retrofitted with the gear as part of a test program partially funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Transportation experts suggest Intelligent Vehicle systems could also move cars closer to an era of autonomous driving, where motorists would simply plug-in a destination and settle back texting or cellphoning or reading the paper, for that matter, since the vehicle itself would handle the driving duties.
Traffic Technology Today, reported in January 2011 that the EUfinanced SARTRE project has carried out the first successful demonstration of its vehicle platooning technology at the Volvo Proving Ground in Sweden. Vehicle platooning is a convoy of vehicles, where a driver in a lead vehicle drives a line of other vehicles.
SARTRE will use a forward-looking camera and 76 GHz radar. Each vehicle must also be equipped with a local control system. To achieve global control over the platoon, a communication system, probably using the 5.9 GHz radio channel would interconnect the vehicles.
Project backers say that platooning is designed to improve and cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions while it reduces traffic congestion.
The technology development is under way but public acceptance of the system and legislation by 25 EU governments will likely hinder acceptance for a while.
- ‘Talking’ Cars Are Coming Soon to Keep Us Safe (wired.com)
- Ford cars dodge congestion charge (autonetinsurance.co.uk)
- How Dangerous Is Distracted Driving? (abcnews.go.com)