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What is the connected car?

By raccars Published

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It's a hot buzzword for motor show concepts at the moment, but what exactly is the connected car?

Cars were originally a method of transport, a means of getting from A to B. Along the way it was discovered that quite a lot of fun could be extracted from the process and cars also became absorbed by popular culture, becoming items of fashion and even works of art. So where do cars go next? Manufacturers are banking on the internet to drive the next revolution in automotive culture.

The thinking car

Within about a decade you can expect your car to drive itself; to pick you up; and to allow you to sit and relax or work while it drives you smoothly and safely to your next destination. All the while, it will be communicating with other vehicles on the road and the surrounding infrastructure in order to avoid congestion.

Upon arrival, it will find a parking space and slot itself perfectly within it. When it needs fuel or even maintenance, it will arrange a visit to the service station or dealership and take care of these tasks independently. All of this is to be accomplished through the magic known as the 'internet of things'.

The internet of things

The 'internet of things' means that cars will all be part of a network, using the internet to communicate with each other and with local traffic management systems to ensure the safest and most efficient movement of traffic. If that concept arouses instant fears about personal data sharing, bear in mind that the world is already connected in a number of ways and our cars will simply become an extension - albeit a very sophisticated one - of our existing networks.

From autonomous car to connected car

The connected car is an evolution of the idea of the autonomous car, which was by necessity developed to function independently. Most manufacturers have developed systems which see the car using lasers and cameras to observe its surroundings and react accordingly; akin to a smarter version of a human driver.

Connected cars are a more efficient version of this, using not only GPS mapping and observance systems to find their way, but also using the data supplied by their surroundings in the form of other cars and even buildings. In the future, if all the cars within an area are connected to the local traffic management system, traffic lights will be able to automatically adjust to the changing flow of traffic in order to avoid the need to stop at red lights insofar as possible.

As autonomous cars become connected cars, by networking with each other they will be able to travel in closer formation. The current margin of safety used by autonomous cars has to be quite large at this stage in the development of the technology, in order to give the autonomous tech plenty of time to respond to stimulus.

As human drivers do, the autonomous car responds to the car in front of it by braking when it does. The third car in line responds to the one in front of it and so on, with small delays as each vehicle in line interprets the data it is given. It is this very delay which causes rear end collisions on motorways and busy roads, when human drivers fail to respond in time.

However, a line of connected cars will know what is going on among all the cars in front, so a third or fourth vehicle in a line will know when the front car brakes and can respond immediately rather than waiting for the response of the cars in-between.

It's amazing and potentially scary stuff but the impact upon road safety and traffic congestion could be spectacular.

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