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Friday, 18 November 2011

The Future Cars: Cars are soon going to be the new smart hubs of entertainment and utility

Technology Review
Nov 18, 2011

In the times of traffic jams and extreme weather conditions, each of us is spending more time inside our cars. While we are stuck on road, one of us may want to watch a movie while the jam clears, whereas another driver may want to check mails on the go, and some may want to see where their friends are and alert them to avoid the same route. All these ideas are now being worked upon in the labs by technologists and thinkers of the automotive industry worldwide.

In the coming years we will see cars with the facility of connecting the user to the Internet and letting him or her check e-mails; cars which will intelligently aid the driver with alternative routes; cars which would play songs according to user’s mood and let users shop on the move; and cars which will alert passengers if the driver is drowsy and eventually take total control.

Sanjay Gupta, head of the Microcontroller Solutions Group (automotives) at Freescale Semiconductor, says, “In the coming decade most of the cars will look like an aero-cockpit.” He says it’s possible owing to “India’s history of the adoption rate of new technologies and bypassing many things to catch up globally.”

We might have had a glimpse of such new technologies in cars, but now these are inching their way into the automotive sector and we will soon see them in every vehicle, making our lives easier, more secure, and better connected.

“The concept of ‘smart vehicles’ is typically a set of technologies that work together both inside and outside the car to enable more context-aware driving. Mostly these technologies range from vehicle-to-vehicle communication to vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. They provide real-time traffic information, intelligent emergency assistance, accident alert, traffic based vehicle routing, multimedia content streaming, smart parking, vehicle track and trace-based applications, and electric or hybrid vehicle related infrastructure,” explains Logica India’s head of innovation, Rakesh Aerath.


The most interesting concept of a “connected car” is to enable two cars to talk to each other, with passengers allowed to make use of wireless networks and a dashboard that can display navigational maps, tourist information of nearby places, and stream live YouTube videos.

CSR India, which designs and manufactures single-chip radio devices for Bluetooth standards and Wi-Fi, is one of the pioneers in identifying the need for cars as a hub for connectivity.

It has installed Wi-Fi device called Wi-Fi Direct in numerous cars. Most often the only connecting device used inside the cars are the mobile phones or mobile devices owing to their capability of connecting to networks. CSR believes it is high time that the car is itself connected to networks through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Now 3G Wi-Fi modem and 3G SIM cards can be fitted in cars to let it stay connected.

CSR is also working with original equipment and design manufacturers across the world to develop voice-based command system for the car. The current technology allows use of voice commands to play songs, dial numbers, and more. But CSR’s solution would comprise voice-recognition and text-to-speech software to enable the user to drive without taking eyes and hands off the road. “We are looking at a total touch-free experience while driving a car, which makes the car journey essentially more safe,” says Deepak Thomas, marketing manager — automotive and portable navigation device at CSR.

Every car now has a lot of electronic and software components in it. “As much as 20 to 30 percent of the total production cost of a car is being spent into electronics and software, and connected cars enable the data of various components of the car, such as health, be displayed on the dashboard for the driver,” he says. He estimates that by 2015, 750 million smart phones would have Wi-Fi Direct and thus cars will be forced to incorporate the same and absorb lot more innovation towards smarter and greener cars.
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