If you work in the auto industry, staying informed can be all-consuming these days – with the Takata airbag recall, the Volkswagen diesel car scandal, automakers striving to become the first one selling self-driving cars, and the impact low fuel prices is having on green car sales. There is one topic I would advise you to stay current on, as it touches upon all the rest – connected car technologies.
Connected cars is what we have now with mobile device connectivity to our dashboards for entertainment and driving directions – such as Bluetooth bringing Pandora from your smartphone to your car’s sound system; the deployment of safety features like lane departure warning systems, backup cameras, and driver assistance systems that are considered stepping stones to autonomous vehicle technologies eventually becoming the norm; intelligent transportation systems coordinated by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation with its goals of making roads safer and more efficient; and mobile apps on devices that lead you to the closest electric vehicle charging station and other features that make your car your own personal mobility device.
Here’s an overview of what’s happening lately in connected car technologies……..
- Hacker threat: Automakers and suppliers think we’re very close to seeing connected car technologies being added to all new vehicles sold. A survey of OEM and supplier managers says they think it will take one to three years to secure the technology, according to a new study by International Data Corp. and commissioned by security company Veracode. The study came from test study last year showing by professional hackers taking over a Jeep Cherokee, raising the flag on the possibility of hackers making cyberthreats that they can carry out. The auto industry is aware that adopting these systems widely may bring privacy and safety problems, but companies are working hard and resolving and moving the technologies forward.
- Fuel station of the future: At the Geneva Motor Show, Nissan showed a video presentation on it 12-month long project examining the role electric cars, autonomous vehicles, and vehicle-to-grid technology could play in the city of the near future. Nissan Europe has been collaborating with noted architects Foster + Partners on a project that imagines electric cars that can recharge themselves wirelessly both at home and elsewhere. What Nissan calls “The Fuel Station of the Future” integrates electric autonomous vehicles, the internet, and renewable energy.
- Mcity: Along with Silicon Valley r&d labs, the University of Michigan’s Mcity project in Ann Arbor, Mich., has become the epicenter of connected car technology development. The University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship just created a partnership with the U-M Mobility Transformation Center to launch the pilot of the TechLab at Mcity. TechLab is a training ground for student interns to experience the process of transforming a lab innovation into a company, which will prepare them for the real world of product development. The Mcity test facility was launched last year, and comes from an alliance over several years between automakers, technology companies, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the university. The full-scale, 32-acre urban environment provides real-world road scenarios – such as running a red light – that can’t be replicated on public roads; vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies are part of testing grounds. Last fall, Ford became the first automaker to launch an autonomous vehicle test program at Mcity. The Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle merges today’s driver-assist technologies, such as front-facing cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors, and adds four LiDAR sensors to generate a real-time 3D map of the vehicle’s surrounding environment.
- Connected car trade group: Connected car technology is becoming enough of an industry norm to create a trade group and a few conferences. The Connected Vehicle Trade Association (CVTA) announced that Paul Laurenza has been promoted from vice chair to chairman of the organization. Laurenza head national law firm Dykema’s motor vehicle and consumer product safety federal regulatory practices. Laurenza has advised clients on connected vehicle legal and policy issues for more than a decade, and is a frequent speaker and author on emerging intelligent vehicle technologies. CVTA was created to facilitate the interaction, and advance the interests, of the entities involved in the vehicle communication environment and developing bidirectional vehicle communications.
- Conferences: Automotive Megatrends Magazine is hosting three events in Detroit this year combined into one. On March 15-17, day-long conferences will cover connected cars, autonomous vehicles, and fuel-efficient vehicles. All three will take place at The Henry in Dearborn, Mich. Connected Car Expo will take place again at the beginning of the LA Auto Show on Nov. 15-17, 2016. Keynote speakers will include John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft, Inc.; and Arwed Niestroj, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America in California.
- Who’s right – Musk or Zuckerberg? In an interview with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner for the German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t agree with Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s concerns over machines being stronger than humans, taking over and wreaking havoc. Musk and colleagues have serious fears that artificial intelligence could one day dominate and take over the human brain. They’ve poured money into a Y Combinator-led project to make sure it doesn’t happen. Zuckerberg thinks it’s more hysterical. “I think that the default is that all the machines that we build serve humans so unless we really mess something up I think it should stay that way,” Zuckerberg said.
- Fiat Chrysler and Apple? Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne, who describes himself as an “Apple freak,” would love to partner with the technology giant on building a car. Apple Inc. would be well served to partner with an established global automaker, given the complexity of auto manufacturing, Marchionne said at the Geneva Motor Show. Besides, Marchionne loves Apple’s technologies and owns every kind of product the company makes. Marchionne has been spending a great deal of time in the past two years looking for a major corporate partner to merge with – to eliminate Fiat’s debt and boost its profits. FCA has been behind its OEM competitors in electric vehicles, advanced connected car technologies, and mobility services. Partnering with Apple could be ideal, since that technology has invested in electric and autonomous vehicle technology projects – and would be better partnering with one or more OEMs.