IoT Puts Autonomous Vehicles in the Fast Lane
The idea of an autonomous vehicle first caught the attention of the American public way back in 1939. The World’s Fair Futurama exhibit, sponsored by General Motors, introduced the concept of a self-driving car and the roadways that could make them a reality. While the exact design by Bel Geddes was never realized, the concept persisted, and today—thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT)—the dream of autonomous vehicles is now becoming a reality.
BI Intelligence projects 94 million connected cars will ship in 2021, representing 82% of all cars shipped that year. If the prediction is fulfilled, it represents a compound annual growth rate of 35%.
Leveraging IoT isn’t just promising big business for carmakers; IoT-enhanced vehicles are being embraced on a wide scale in the market for commercial trucks and tractors, bringing potentially sizable benefits.
A Smarter Car
Connected personal vehicles offer a broad range of capabilities from improved navigation to data tracking, system monitoring and predictive maintenance to driving assistance and—soon—fully autonomous options.
- Navigation – While navigation systems are now the norm in newer cars, more sophisticated capabilities are coming onto the scene. Systems that support Google Earth for MMI, its Internet-connected interactive operating system, enables drivers to check real-time traffic conditions, control navigation and even compare the prices of fuel at nearby gas stations.
- Data Tracking – Data tracking provides useful information on vehicle usage, communicating engine diagnostics to service providers, recommending anticipated maintenance needs and more. This information is easily then accessible through mobile apps. The data also can be used for insurance telematics purposes.
- Vehicle-to-Vehicle Safety – Newer connected cars are set to improve safety with valuable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology. Considered by some to be the next wave of automotive safety, V2V enables vehicles to communicate their speed and direction to other vehicles, which the U.S. Department of Transportation says could help avoid up to 80% of accidents. Cadillac is the first company with announced plans to roll out V2V technology in the 2017 CTS.
- Parental Control - Connected capabilities help parents keep a closer eye on their teen drivers. Hyundai’s Blue Link service offers a set of controls, including geo-fencing and a curfew, which alerts the owner if the car travels outside of a pre-defined geographic area or if the car is used outside of pre-determined time periods.
- Driver Assist – Offerings include enhancements to familiar features like cruise control and beyond. In addition to gently steering to stay within lane markings while on the freeway, Volvo’s Pilot Assist maintains your selected speed while keeping your vehicle a certain physical distance behind the car in front of you.
- Semi-Autonomous –Tesla’s first-generation Autopilot provides drivers with a host of semi-autonomous capabilities. Since Version 8 was released in September 2016, Tesla cars with Autopilot have been able to auto steer, change lanes with the tap of a signal, look for parking spots, park perpendicularly and self-parallel park. Its newly released Enhanced Autopilot allows the car to match its speed to traffic conditions, automatically change lanes without driver input, merge on and off highways, and park itself.
- Fully Autonomous – Fully autonomous personal vehicles will be available soon. In August 2016, Ford announced plans to have thousands of fully autonomous vehicles in urban car-sharing and ride-hailing fleets by 2021, while Google, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz see their fully autonomous vehicles hitting the road by 2020.
Keep on Rolling
The commercial implementation of IoT-enabled vehicles holds great promise financially and in socially impactful ways, such as increasing safety on the road and increasing farmers’ crop yields.
- Trucking - Driving continuously creates opportunities to cut down costs while increasing safety. Otto, established in January 2016, offers a self-driving kit to transform the capabilities of long-haul trucks. The solution retrofits semi trucks with radars, cameras and laser sensors to make them capable of driving themselves for significant periods of time. The goal is to make truck driving safer and more efficient, enabling drivers to rest during long-haul shifts.
Otto completed the first real-world commercial use of autonomous trucking in October 2016, delivering 45,000 cans of Budweiser beer to a warehouse after traveling over 120 highway miles in a self-driving truck with no driver at the wheel. The driver monitored from the truck's sleeper berth for the majority of the two-hour journey, only taking the wheel to navigate on and off the highway ramp.
Across the globe in Singapore, Toyota and Volkswagen subsidiary Scania is beginning a three-year autonomous truck trial. Over the course of the pilot, the companies will operate a fleet of trucks composed of three autonomous vehicles following a manned one to transport cargo between ports.
- Farming - Farmers have been embracing connected technologies for the last 15 years or so. John Deere has a 200,000 self-driving tractors on farms around the world from the U.S. to Germany. The capabilities of connected tractors go far beyond just the ability to drive without a physical driver. Since the system can collect telematics data from the connected tractor—such as fuel consumption, seeds planted and speed—it assists farming in myriad ways by allowing insight that can facilitates increases in efficiency, streamlining billing and more.
Using IoT for farming has two significant benefits—making it more efficient (and increasing profits) and increasing yield to keep up with a growing world population. Though innovations in farming techniques and technologies have significantly boosted crop yields, they still aren’t keeping up with global population growth. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, to keep up with demand, food production will need to increase by 70% by the year 2050. Autonomous tractors provide a valuable tool to help close this gap.
Securing a Moving Target
With the bright possibilities of connected vehicles, it’s easy to get distracted from the inherent security concerns. It’s a dangerous mistake. There have already been numerous instances of criminals remotely hijacking or breaking into connected cars.
In 2015, security experts teamed with Wired for an experiment. They successfully wirelessly hacked into a Jeep Cherokee, demonstrating how they managed to take control of the vehicle’s entertainment system, air conditioning, steering and brakes—all with someone in the car. Jeep issued a recall of 1.4 million vehicles to fix the bug.
It’s critical to take the steps to ensure that the connected vehicles are secure. Automotive companies and all organizations interested in leveraging smart cars, trucks, or tractors should be familiar with the security solutions that will protect their customers and their assets.