If you’ve been anywhere near the news lately, the invention of the “smart car” is nothing new to you. What might be new, however, is the technology that makes a car “smart.” See, cars aren’t becoming “self-aware, autonomous machines” in the same way that Optimus Prime is. That’s because smart cars are dependent on a lot more than just their own computers to function properly.
Sure, Elon Musk has announced that the self-driving car is ready ahead of regulators, and, to boot, the Uber’s made the world’s first autonomous delivery in a truck – but there’s a lot more to the saga than just one or two cars that can drive themselves.
What makes smart cars truly “smart” is their ability to connect to the growing Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT includes your smartphones and is expanding to include refrigerators, watches, and now cars. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 250 million vehicles will be connected globally, with the number of installed connectivity units in vehicles worldwide increasing by 67 percent and consumer spend on in-vehicle connectivity doubling. So how exactly will the IoT change driving?
1. Cars Will Become the Ultimate Mobile Device
For cars to truly integrate into the IoT, they’ll need to operate in a fashion similar to smartphones.
Deloitte’s consumer research suggests “that drivers of the next generation want their cars to act as smartphones on wheels, like to remain connected and productive while on the go, consider fully connected vehicles among the most beneficial futuristic technologies, and are ready to pay a sizeable amount for a vehicle that meets all their technology needs and wants.”
What that means is that Siri, Alexa, and Cortana may become your regular co-pilots as the line between smartphone and smart car becomes blurred. SAS thinks that the future of smart cars will be dominated by them talking to you, with questions like:
- “You’ve been driving for four hours and it’s past 9 p.m. A hotel five miles from here has rooms available. Would you like me to reserve a room and guide you there?”
- “Your friends Jeff and Kelly are at a restaurant around the corner. Would you like to call them? Would you like me to navigate you to your friends?”
- “Traffic between here and home is moving slow and your brakes need service. I can get you a service appointment with a highly rated dealer in five minutes. Would you like me to make the service appointment and drive you there?”
Welcome to the future where smartphones have wheels.
2. Computer Companies Will Become Car Companies
… and vice/versa. At the very least, the partnerships will grow immeasurably stronger. As cars slowly transition into smartphones on wheels, it helps to remember that smartphones are basically just pocket-computers. The same way that companies traditionally existing in the computer realm moved on to smartphones, it really didn’t surprise anybody that Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, Nvidia, and many other computer companies began staking their claims in the automotive industry.
However, the reverse is also true. At the same time automakers like Ford are setting up offices in places like Palo Alto, CA, tech companies are heading to Detroit to better understand and collaborate with the auto industry. At the end of the day, it sounds like the computer companies will be more successful.
“Apple and Google will to a large extent take away most of the business from automakers through cloud-based services over time,” says Egil Juliussen, research director at IHS Automotive.
As nearly everything succumbs to the IoT, expect even more computer companies to infiltrate tangential industries.
3. Driving Will Be Faster and Greener
One of the best parts about the IoT is that the amount of time we spend on the road will be cut drastically. It’s been reported that British drivers spend around 30 hours per year in traffic jams, while Germans spend about 35 hours. On the other side of the pond, in the U.S., it’s estimated that 30 percent of traffic congestion in some areas is caused by people looking for a place to park, while the national annual cost of traffic congestion is $87.2 billion in wasted fuel and productivity. Yikes.
Fortunately, new innovations in not just cars, but also in traffic fixtures will allow us to cut down on drive and idle time, meaning quicker rides and a greener planet for everybody. Ahmed Farrag over at ASmarterPlanet.com explains how IBM software, reading information from sensors embedded in the smartcar and the city surrounding it, will be able to:
- Consolidate traffic data from different sources.
- Analyze traffic information to provide near-real-time insights.
- Monitor traffic operations and incidents.
- Support the storage and presentation of geographic information systems.
With this information, you could create optimal traffic patterns where cars never have to wait in red lights or look for parking again. Plus one for speed!
4. Driving Will Become Undeniably Safer
Even though we’ll be getting everywhere much faster, the fact that all cars will be connected with the Internet, and, eventually, one another, means unparalleled levels of safety. What some are calling a new era or crash prevention has seen “historic commitments” by automakers to create safer vehicles. In Europe, this growth is fueled by legislative initiatives, with new mandates for manufacturers to fit all cars with an eCall-equipped chip by 2018 that will automatically contact the nearest emergency centre in case of a collision.
Even further down the road, automobiles will even communicate with one another, like a network or a “hive mind”, meaning that they will be able to predict and avoid more crashes than a human being, or even a non-networked self-driving car, could. The only problem comes in the form of a question… if accidents do occur, who will be responsible since nobody is driving? Industry experts tell us that we’ll just have to wait and see.
5. People Will Lose Jobs
Unfortunately, while fewer people will be in distress from accidents and injuries, many more will be out of jobs connected to driving services. A Los Angeles Times op-ed reports that autonomous vehicles could cost America 5 million jobs, due to the fact that they are safer, faster, and more efficient.
IoT-connected vehicles never show up drunk, tired, or late, to work and safety on-the-job would go through the roof to boot. The CDC reports that motor vehicle accidents in the workplace are the leading cause of death for employees in the U.S., with approximately 2,000 worker deaths from accidents caused by moving vehicles. So that’s a plus. Don’t worry, there’s more good news…
6. People Will Gain Jobs
Even though some will be losing jobs, there will be plenty more jobs opening up. Think about it this way. When the Industrial Revolution occurred, it meant that individual craftsmen would be replaced by machines. Luddites took to breaking these machines, like looms, printing presses, etc., fearing that automation and machinery would leave the whole world jobless, essentially.
However, if we look at the history of the loom, the cotton gin, the printer – all these inventions share in common that they automated processes and eliminated certain jobs, while creating entirely new ones in new industries. The IoT and its relation to driving is no different.
While the world may need fewer professional drivers, the IoT will be creating the need for millions of coders and developers by 2020. This is backed by the current reality that about half of the high-paying jobs in America now require coding as skill, as well as increased enrollment and interest in online only programs like Codecademy and DeVry Bootcamp.
On top of that, a report from job market analytics firm Burning Glass, showed that seven million job openings in 2015 were in occupations that required coding skills, while programming jobs overall are growing 12% faster than the market average. Don’t let the scare tactics get you – the future of the job market is bright.
7. Cars May Become Cheaper, Ridesharing Encouraged
While it’s somewhat of an anomaly when prices on products drop, you can bet that the cost of car ownership will too. The average American pays about $1800 a year on car insurance, the cost of which would certainly go down, and possibly even disappear once IoT-safety reigns on the roads. Some are even saying traditional car ownership could be challenged, as scheduling could allow multiple people to own the same car, which would drive one owner to its location autonomously, and then depart to pick up its second owner.
The process could continue indefinitely if the schedule allows… owners might even be able to make money by “leasing” or putting their car up for ridesharing, say, when they’re at work, or even when they’re asleep. You might even be able to make money from already-rising trends like affiliate location based marketing, where your car would display ads for coupons (like modern taxis do), and where you would make money based off of coupon codes people used.
Not only may your car become less expensive, but you could even make money off of it!
We truly are at a crossroads when it comes to automobiles in the world. In another 10 years, driving may look completely different, with far more cars on the road, but far fewer drivers. Buckle up, because the Internet of Things is going to take us for a ride!
Featured photo credit: DimiTVP via commons.wikimedia.org