If a car can communicate with other road users, the Internet or the telephone network, it is called a connected, i.e. connected, car. The application possibilities are manifold: they range from emergency communication in the event of an accident to warnings in the event of damage occurring to the mere entertainment of the occupants.

Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to buy a car without such a system – the popularity is unbroken. While privacy advocates react between being suspicious and shocked, users appreciate the added convenience, fast Internet connections, and added security that connected cars offer.

As a perfect example of the advancing digitalization, connected vehicles symbolize numerous current developments: Once purely mechanical objects are equipped with more and more digital technology, networked with each other and thus make everyday life easier for us. The digital transformation is also being driven by an increase in new applications and services, in this case: entertainment, making calls in the car, direct contact with maintenance and service facilities, GPS-based navigation, and much more that were simply not available to us before.

Definition of digitization

Digitalization is, quite soberly speaking, simply the transfer of formerly analogue processes to digital ones. Even if we are currently increasingly encountering these and similar terms, this is a very old and simple process, because almost every form of digitization is rewarded with efficiency increases, cost reductions and new, previously unknown possibilities. No wonder we humans have always been very interested in her.

Due to the accelerating technical progress and the mutual support (new technologies enable new technologies …) digitalization has gained so much speed in recent years that it has now penetrated into all areas of our lives and is indispensable from there. This digital transformation is a technological, socio-cultural, economic and intellectual process that brings with it gigantic upheavals.

For companies in particular, the digital transformation creates unprecedented opportunities – but it also lurks with considerable dangers, especially if it is ignored.

The beginnings of Connected Cars

In 1996, when mobile phones were far from being found in all trousers and handbags and modern smartphones could not even be dreamed of, General Motors launched its “OnStar” service. This provided an emergency hotline via the mobile network for the vehicles in which the corresponding device was installed. In the event of an accident, a connection was made to a dedicated call centre and emergency services were alerted much faster than usual. Since every second saved in such situations can literally be life-defining, the system quickly developed into a sales success.

The concept, which was also adopted by other manufacturers, experienced a general flourish and was supplemented by numerous other functions. The GPS transmitter, which made it possible to locate in an emergency, was increasingly used for navigation systems in the early 2000s. In addition to serious accidents, general roadside assistance was quickly included in the offer.

Other improvements, such as warnings when there is a defect in the vehicle and could lead to failures or damage, as well as ever-faster connections using the latest mobile networks, have led to constant progress. Modern connected cars have long been able to connect the inmates’ smartphones to the Internet or stream media content in real time as a WiFi hotspot with high data speeds.

Connected Cars for Companies – Opportunities and Business Areas

While the success of the systems is largely due to their private use for entertainment purposes, they also offer numerous benefits for businesses. A properly networked fleet cannot only replace logbooks and similar measures; the large amount of movement data and other information can also be used to make mathematical models for the most efficient use of the vehicles. Significant savings in time, distance and fuel are the result that many delivery services, hauliers and companies with a large number of service vehicles already benefit.

Insurance companies also use the recently available data treasures to classify drivers according to their behaviour on the road. This can have an impact on insurance costs and is therefore a possible tool to encourage even particularly reckless drivers to comply with the Road Traffic Code. Special tariffs also offer the possibility to adjust the insurance sum to the actual distance travelled – also thanks to the data of the connected vehicles.

Modern ride-sharing services rely in part on similar concepts. While a private car is used extremely inefficiently (it is in a garage most of the time) and we do not cover most of the routes at full capacity, a share vehicle can be used precisely when it is needed. Once the respective “use” has been completed, the next customer can join. It is also possible to collect more passengers via appropriate apps, unless a global pandemic hails the concept. These applications benefit from appropriate real-time vehicle data to provide passengers with an ideal experience.

Due to its size, the Connected Car market is also interesting for companies looking for new business areas. There is still a great need for appropriate vehicle apps and systems, as well as for fast and reliable cloud services, which are often the “backbone” of connected cars.

Different categories of connections for different purposes

Vehicles can make a variety of connections, from one car to another or to a central cloud. Equally complex are the underlying applications.

While cloud-based connections to the Internet(V2C – Vehicle to Cloud) are often used to entertain occupants and are used, for example, to provide WiFi hotspots or music streaming services, other connections are more traffic-oriented.

V2I – Vehicle to Infrastructure – is a use case in which the driver receives environmental data that supports him or her in traffic. This may include weather data or traffic jams. Guidance systems for parking and traffic management in cities are also popular locations.

The connection to pedestrians and their smartphones (V2P – Vehicle to Pedestrian) is also a concept that offers potential benefits for road safety. However, its development is still in its early stages. Such a system could allow modern driving assistants, for example, to locate pedestrians in the area using their mobile phones or wearables regardless of actual visual contact, and to predict and prevent collisions through their movement patterns. This could also reduce the highly dangerous accidents at the blind spot of lorries.

Autonomous Driving vs. Connected Cars

In the context of such modern assistance systems and self-driving cars, there is often talk of “autonomous driving”. Vehicles are often seen as independent road users – a grossly misconception!

The opposite is true: any kind of traffic, whether controlled by people or computers, is not independent of each other, but is instead highly interconnected. Road traffic is a “group activity” in which each participant reacts to each other and follows higher-level movements and patterns. If a vehicle were to move autonomously, i.e. independently of its surroundings, the result would be dozens of abrupt full braking, unnecessary accelerations and a generally increased risk of accidents.

Instead, a high degree of interconnectivity is needed to transfer the natural flow of traffic – which even experienced human drivers find difficult to maintain, as many traffic jams prove every day – to self-driving cars. Individual vehicles must be able to pass on movement, acceleration and braking data to their surroundings at lightning speed to ensure safe and flowing traffic.

The concept of autonomous cars is therefore to be understood as independence from the human driver, but never from other road users. If you want to realize future scenarios of self-driving cars, buses and trucks, you will inevitably have to rely on a data connection between the individual participants.

With the continued success of sophisticated driving assistants, these V2V connections are therefore becoming more and more of a focus for engineers. This is followed by a correspondingly growing market in which sensor technology will have a significant share.

Conclusion

The majority of newly produced vehicles have long fulfilled the definition of a connected car – this will not change in the future. On the contrary, with the continuous improvement of assistance systems and the increasing digitalization of our environment, to which we expect full access even in our cars, faster and better connections will only become more important.

Connected cars are thus a perfect example of the ongoing digital transformation and the new possibilities that come with it. Both the safety of road users and the comfort of the vehicle occupants benefit enormously from this development.

Experts in Connected Cars

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