The Internet of Cars – IoT Technology in the Automotive Sector

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The Internet of Everything envisions an optimized confluence of people, data, processes and things, all smartly linked to and part of the internet.

The aim is to attain human-to-human, machine-to-machine, and human-to-machine interactions that will improve all activities and enrich people’s lives.

Since the birth of internet, users have had a strong desire to connect a whole range of appliances for a wide variety of uses and to keep their connections “always on.” In the early stages, attempts were made to connect the refrigerator, the TV, and even the toaster.

The idea for the Smart Connected Home was inspired by this desire. As time spent at home is an important part of people’s lives, it made sense to make home smart and connected. However, home is not merely a place to sleep, but serves various functions to various people. As such, there is not a valid reason for each and every function of the home to be connected.

However, the car can be a better platform to realize the full concept of the Internet of Everything. Within the car, the people, data, processes, and things can engage in seamless interactions in their own ecosystems, with other cars and in the external cloud, with the help of the internet.

The Car as a Technology Hub

The present generation of cars are already full of electronics. In fact, cars have the highest densities of electronic components among all consumer machines. STMicroelectronics supplies many of the silicon technologies used inside cars, and already views the car as a technology hub.

A car today is powered by a plethora of technologies. These technologies are categorized under three domains: safety & security, powertrain/fuel economy, and infotainment & telematics.

In addition to the more traditional solutions such as stability control, anti-lock braking systems, and airbags, newer technologies including autonomous breaking, night vision, and active safety (camera and sensor based) are used to address safety and security issues.

Infotainment and telematics are addressed by technologies that enable positioning and location-based services, smart traffic management, car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication, and possible in the future, autonomous driving. Technologies in shift-by-wire, engine downsizing, engine control, street predictability, and vehicle electrification address the powertrain/fuel economy domain.

All of these technologies used within the car are interconnected and centrally controlled. Some of these, including car-to-infrastructure and positioning, are connectivity features in their own right. The car as a technology hub has already started fulfilling the Internet of Everything concept with people, processes, and things interacting seamlessly.

A complete picture can be obtained by collecting, managing, and analyzing data, and connecting everything to the internet. The Internet of Cars turns into a complete platform in the Internet of Everything.

Infotainment & telematics and safety & security are highly improved with the benefit of data transfer and connectivity. However, powertrain/fuel economy may not offer great benefits when working in a connected world.

Safety & Security

The number one concern for car users is safety. Cars connected together can assist each other to be safer, much like the internet concept of using the strength of the connected masses. Equipped with smart sensors that help to detect the surroundings of the car, connectivity to be online, and satellite positioning to establish a relative location, cars can exchange information regarding road and traffic conditions and other obstacles ahead.

Today, telematics applications can make emergency assistance calls automatically in case of accidents. Maintenance of vehicle, which is the preventive route to car safety, is already being significantly improved. Maintenance work can be recorded and highlighted by data logging and remote diagnosis of the vehicle. Telematics also provides anti-theft features that enable tracking and reporting of its whereabouts to the authorities.

On a macro scale, the Internet of Cars can provide smart traffic forecast and management via a unified communication network for vehicles. This can lead to safer roads, lower emission due to cars waiting in traffic jams, and less congestion.

These “connected” safety features, in addition to conventional passive safety technologies such as braking, stability control, and airbags are developing an integrated approach that takes car safety to a new level.

Like all things “connected,” security is a concern in cars too. Critical components of the vehicle such as the electronic control unit for the engine and other safety systems must be protected from attacks. The same applies for the huge amounts of data that will be generated by the connected car.

Driver habits and behavior data can be traced, recorded, and transferred to insurance companies for analysis. These data tracking methods can enable insurance companies to provide customized policies based on the pay-how-you-drive or pay-as-you-drive models. This encourages safer and more economical driving practices at the expense of some personal data.

Infotainment & Telematics

Getting lost is one of the most frustrating driving experiences. With the increase in the navigation systems, the frequency of this occurring has reduced.

Although GPS is a recognized technology in car navigation, the ability to receive signals from several satellite systems (Glonass, Galileo, Beidou) to gather data from numerous sensors in the vehicle’s network (acceleration, speed, wheel angle) and to use this information will enhance response time and accuracy in determining vehicle position and expand the service of this function beyond basic navigation into applications related to safety.

A lot of people use connected technologies that are often enabled by smartphones or tablets in their daily lives. The information streamed to people, the music that they listen to, the communication channels that they establish, or their social media network that have become an important part of their life.

People interact with these throughout the day. These interactions must continue seamlessly even when they enter their cars. They would not want to adapt to a whole new set of connected characteristics when they are in their cars.

Therefore, the ability to “handover” the personal connectivity of a tablet or a smartphone to a car to imitate the same user interface and feel is a significant goal. In order to accelerate the seamless integration of the smartphone to the car layers and develop a single connected experience, players who control the major operating systems for tablets and smartphones are developing alliances and shaping standards.

While familiarity is desired, some user interfaces have to be redesigned to suit the attention-demanding needs of driving. The driver’s focus needs to stay on the road and too many activation controls through finger swipes and presses is risky. In the car platform, applications that require visual attention will have to be reduced. The most suitable user interface will be both eyes- and hands-free. Voice-activated commands will have a significant role to play inside a car.

Issues related to business model ownership will arise in the car platform, much like it did in the smartphone platform. These issues will be higher in areas that are particularly car specific and yet to be tested and standardized through the more established smartphone platform.

New players will enter the automobile industry, bringing new and disruptive models, and as competition to the car makers and conventional stakeholders. Service and software platform providers, content providers, telecommunication network providers, and consumer appliances makers will mix and create a new era in the automotive industry.

A Confluence of Diverse but Complementary Technologies

The Internet of Cars is also a large complex beast like the Internet of Everything, and needs a system to establish its main functionalities and standards. Eventually, it will find its equilibrium based on technologies that grant it value, function, and practicality.

STMicroelectronics and other technology players who wish to make a difference in the Internet of Cars must provide the technology building blocks that form the various parts of a car and the expertise to make them function together, seamlessly. They must also understand that they cannot work in a vacuum and must create a technology ecosystem with other players.

Sensors, processors as the brain, low-power connectivity for data transfer and positioning devices, along with numerous digital interfaces and analog to finish the product design are the main technology building blocks in the Internet of Everything. STMicroelectronics has already developed these technologies into a strong portfolio.

STMicroelectronics is also a lead player in automotive-wide technologies including infotainment, telematics, safety, body, advanced driver assistance systems, sensors, powertrain, and positioning. STMicroelectronics has both highly efficient automotive-grade manufacturing machine and in-house design expertise to tweak and expand its technology offering to car manufacturers, system makers, and other stakeholders in the ecosystem to successfully execute the Internet of Cars.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by STMicroelectronics.

For more information on this source, please visit STMicroelectronics.

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