When mobile phones first appeared, few could have foreseen the revolutionary lifestyle changes this small device would catalyze. The evolutionary leap to smartphones has turned mobile devices into tiny computers that provided a connection point for nearly everything we do. Now, the barrage of technological advancements that transformed the telecommunications industry is paving the way for equally seismic shifts in automotive design.
Bluetooth® Opens the Door
The car you drove just a few years ago moved you from point A to point B, with your radio or mobile phone providing the only connection to the outside world. Hands-free communication arrived with the advent of Bluetooth technology-already proven to be a life-saving feature. Today, low-power Bluetooth Smart® technology is spawning explosive growth in wireless applications, including wearable technology that captures and transmits biometric data. Bringing wearable smart devices into a car makes it possible for a vehicle to warn a driver who is falling asleep or act preemptively to avoid other potential dangers based on critical indicators like glucose levels, blood pressure or blood alcohol levels.
Wi-Fi® Expands the Possibilities
Another essential component of the connected car is Wi-Fi technology, which makes it possible for a vehicle to sync and connect without cellular service. Wi-Fi allows manufacturers to push software upgrades and new features directly to the vehicle. Drivers can use their smart mobile device and Wi-Fi apps to remotely unlock their car, activate the climate control system, find their vehicle in a crowded parking lot, and check on gas levels or the status of an electric car battery. That same device can receive performance and diagnostic alerts directly from the vehicle.
More exciting for many consumers, the introduction of Gigabit Wi-Fi or 5G technology enhances seamless streaming of content from mobile devices to the car’s infotainment system and rear-seat display. It also enables high-speed Internet connectivity directly from a Wi-Fi hotspot: “Would you like a movie with that tank of gas?” Wi-Fi has become such a game-changing in-car technology that analysts are predicting eight-fold growth in Wi-Fi enabled automotive applications over the next five years.
Automotive Ethernet Connects the Dots
We have all watched the evolution of in-car electronics from simple fuel injection to advanced systems for the engine, drivers assist, tire pressure, airbag, safety, infotainment, camera and radar. The truly connected car demands more than any of these isolated technologies could ever provide. Further advancements-including the ability to connect a smartphone to a car’s infotainment system-required a networking protocol that is fast, scalable to ever higher speeds, adaptable, and cost-effective. Even more importantly, it had to provide the ultimate protection against malfunctions and cyber-attacks.
The logical choice was the granddaddy of connectivity, Ethernet-but only if bulky, heavy cabling could be eliminated. Ingenious developers from the automotive and electronic industries came together to hurdle that challenge, ultimately introducing high-speed 100 Mbps Ethernet that runs on light, inexpensive wiring and is fully optimized for in-vehicle applications. Automotive Ethernet provides every capability demanded by the connected car, turning the entire vehicle into a centralized, secure data center with proven standards of performance, compliance and security.
From Elite to Commonplace
Within the next decade, features associated with today’s luxury vehicles will be showing up in economy classes. Ethernet is already on the road as the network backbone that works seamlessly with in-car protocols and wireless technologies to meet advanced performance and security demands. Issues of pairing devices disappear with seamless connectivity between your personal mobile and any vehicle-your own car, your spouse’s, or a rental.
Manufacturers will continue to leverage Ethernet’s performance and cost advantages to introduce safety features like rear cameras, surround-view parking, lane-departure alerts, and collision avoidance systems across a broader range of vehicles. The ability to sync and stream at lightning speeds will transform the connected car into a digital living room on wheels, offering dazzling new infotainment features. And yes, the automotive industry is keenly aware of the dangers associated with driver distraction. Along with connectivity, expect to see refinements in voice activation as well as strategically placed, heads-up displays that keep hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
Beyond the Wheel to the Road Ahead
Once these technologies are firmly integrated into automotive applications, developers can focus on introducing mind-bending advances in highway safety. The industry is already working toward Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) Communications that will enable a dynamic wireless exchange of data between your car and other vehicles. The anonymous exchange of “Here I Am” data will revolutionize the very way our roadways work by providing 360-degree awareness of other vehicles based on position, speed and location. Drivers will rely on this flow of data that senses and identifies upcoming threats and hazards to act preemptively and avoid crashes. Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) will enable communication between a car and the highway infrastructure to facilitate advances like smart traffic signals and automation of toll gates and car rentals.
A New Driving Experience
We live in a world of ever-increasing connection. By 2025, analysts predict that all new cars sold will be “Connected”, redefining the driving experience and ushering in an entirely new era of choices for consumers.