This year we witnessed significant changes in the connected car space, which offers further proof that technology is reshaping automotive in the same way it’s transformed industries ranging from music to medicine. Of all the changes in 2014, these four milestones stand out for how they will impact the car industry and car buyers in the coming years.
Apple and Google Invade the Dashboard
Apple unveiled its CarPlay iOS-device integration platform at the Geneva Auto Show in early March, and Google followed a few months later with Android Auto. The two tech giants inked deals with most major automakers so that features found on connected iOS and Android devices – music, maps, communication – can be displayed and operated on a car’s in-dash screen.
CarPlay and Android Auto will likely be welcomed by car owners frustrated by unfamiliar, buggy, and outdated OEM infotainment system, as well as complementary to automaker’s own device-integration platforms. But while both systems were initially scheduled to be in cars by the end of the year, their debut was delayed. And automakers also began openly questioning whether giving up valuable dashboard display real estate – and even more potentially lucrative connected car data – to Apple and Google is the right move. Regardless, Apple and Google’s invasion of the dashboard signals what’s at stake in infotainment, and that the state of the art needs to improve and catch up with consumer electronics.
Autonomous Cars Get Real
I named 2013 the Year of the Autonomous Car since so many advances were achieved among automakers, and especially Google. No one would have ever guessed that Google’s next step in its self-driving gambit would be a completely autonomous car concept sans a steering wheel or brake and gas pedals, which it unveiled in May. Chris Urmson, director of the company’s Self-Driving Car Project, said in a blog post at the time that those essential parts are unnecessary since Google’s “software and sensors do all the work” to get occupants to their desired destination “at the push of a button.”
In the follow-up, a fully functioning prototype, Google added a steering wheel and pedals, in part because the California DMV requires them for testing on public roads. While Google’s self-driving moonshot still seems like science fiction to some and the company hasn’t set a timeline to go to market, automakers this year marched toward making partially autonomous cars available soon. Cadillac said it will have its Super Cruise lane-centering technology in cars as early as 2016, while Tesla plans to add its own form of “auto pilot” to the Model S in 2015.
Cars Will Soon Talk to Each Other
Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication is a technology that’s been on the horizon for years. But following a massive year-long field trial of more than 3,000 vehicles conducted in Ann Arbor, Michigan by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the federal agency acted this year to mandate the technology on all new vehicles within a few years.
V2V uses a Wi-Fi-like technology called Dedicated Short Range Communication and onboard transceivers to send two-way signals among vehicles in a given vicinity, allowing them to “talk” to one another to avoid accidents. Cars could be alerted beforehand that another vehicle is about to run a red light or that’s there’s a stalled vehicle out of sight ahead, for example. Although the technology still faces a few hurdles before full adoption, the Fed’s announcement this year that it has started the “rulemaking” process is a first step toward the technology becoming required equipment on all new vehicles sold in the U.S. – and a significant reduction in the deaths and injuries that result from car crashes.
Getting Serious About Connected Car Security and Privacy
Following a prominent publicity stunt last year by two computer security experts, there were numerous warnings throughout 2014 about the imminent risk of car hacking. The pair’s high-profile demonstration of the harm that could come from the threat were performed while a computer was hard-wired to the car, which isn’t a likely scenario for the common commuter unless they have a hacker riding shotgun. But by getting the attention of the media – and following up this year with a list of the most hackable cars – the duo raised concerns among carmakers as well as policy makers about hacking.
Not that they haven’t already, although in a discreet manner since security procedures aren’t typically publicized. This summer, for example, Battelle held its third-annual Auto Cyber Challenge in Detroit, and gathered “integrated teams of students, scientists, government personnel, and auto industry engineers” to help study and stem future threats. The auto industry also devised a set of Privacy Principles designed to protect consumer data generated by connected cars, and also to stave off any draconian policy that could come from D.C.
With each passing year, technology further transforms the automobile and driving. While 2014 was a banner year for car tech, expect innovation to accelerate even further in 2015 and bring even more radical changes. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Originally published by PCMag.com