It’s a turbulent time for automotive. The omnipresence of the internet and the wide adoption of smart devices has paved the way for advanced vehicle connections. In fact, the latter has become one of the top driving forces for the innovation of automotive.
This article will discuss what smart connectivity is, what types of vehicle connectivity there are, and what to expect from this technology in the future.
What Is Smart Connectivity in Cars?
Smart connectivity is a technology that allows vehicles to exchange data with external sensors, devices, cloud services, power grids, and each other. That data can be used to improve road safety and traffic management, as well as to enhance urban infrastructures and intelligent transportation systems.
It’s an important element of CASE, which is a set of technologies that drive the future of automotive. CASE stands for:
- Connectivity. The ability of vehicles to connect to a variety of data sources.
- Autonomous. The ability of vehicles to operate without a driver.
- Shared mobility. The ability to effortlessly rent vehicles for personal and commercial use.
- Electrification. The creation of a large sustainable ecosystem for electric vehicles which facilitates faster EV adoption.
Smart connectivity is integral for the development of every CASE component, which by extension makes it a cornerstone of the industry’s future.
What Equipment Do Vehicle Communication Systems Use?
Smart vehicle communication is usually done via Bluetooth, embedded modems, or SIMs that connect to the internet. But special equipment is necessary to produce and gather the data you want to receive or transmit. So what is vehicle communication equipment in that case?
Vehicle communication equipment includes a large variety of technologies that help car communication systems gather information. The data transmitted can be produced by different sensors, which include radars, cameras, LiDAR-like systems (laser-based radars), motion sensors, and many others. Let’s look at a couple of popular examples.
Sometimes, radars come pre-packaged with smart vehicles, but if you’re interested in using this technology, you might need to install one yourself. These commonly operate using ultrasonic frequencies, invisible lasers, or motion sensors (though the latter is more of a camera feature).
LiDAR (stands for Light Detection and Ranging) is an example of a laser-based radar system. It sends out thousands of light rays every second and determines the distance each of the rays travels. This allows the car communication system to quickly detect obstacles and construct an accurate 3D image of the environment around the vehicle.
Cameras are a powerful piece of equipment that can help create a complete 360-degree field of vision for the driver. Recently, car manufacturers have been debuting cameras that are meant to replace rear- and side-view mirrors. These provide greatly enhanced visibility and eliminate common blind spots.
The cameras can be further enhanced with motion-tracking features and night vision. The latter is an especially useful asset that can allow drivers to achieve a similar level of visual awareness to the one they possess during daytime, but in almost zero-light conditions. Combined with radar technology, it provides near-perfect visibility despite minimal illumination.
Collecting all this extra data is all well and good, but there is little point in doing so if the driver is unable to use it. There is a huge amount of information to present and analyze, and most people will find it difficult to process when they’re supposed to be focused on the road. This is why modern display equipment is necessary to convey that extra information in an unobtrusive, easy-to-read way.
Firstly, the car may come pre-equipped with a display dedicated to presenting the data processed by the vehicle communication system. But sometimes, extra mini-displays may be required. Verizon’s Hum is a hands-free unit that clips to the visor and comes with a module that plugs into the car’s OBD II port, as well as a smartphone app. It provides information on the vehicle’s condition, gives notifications, and automatically alerts emergency services in case of a crash.
Another option is a HUD (Heads-Up Display), which can be either affixed to the driver’s dash or be built into the vehicle’s windshield. Some HUD systems are even starting to incorporate augmented reality into their programming, highlighting potential hazards or displaying directions with hologram-like arrows by connecting to GPS and motion sensors.
What Kind of Communications Do Cars Have?
Based on what the vehicle communication devices connect to, vehicle connectivity can be split into the following types:
- Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I);
- Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V);
- Vehicle-to-cloud (V2C);
- Vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P);
- Vehicle-to-device, a.k.a. Vehicle-to-driver (V2D);
- Vehicle-to-grid (V2G);
- Vehicle-to-everything (V2X).
While the names are mostly self-explanatory, it won’t do us any harm to take a closer look at each of them.
Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication is the exchange of data between connected cars and parts of the road’s infrastructure, such as cameras, traffic lights, road signs, parking meters, streetlights, lane markers, and other vehicles, as well as ITS information on weather conditions, congestion, accidents, and speed limits.
V2I serves to increase safety by keeping the drivers aware of all the relevant road information in real time via the mobile network or DSRC. This type of communication is basically irreplaceable when it comes to self-driving vehicles, since they largely rely on external data to select routes and navigate various road situations.
Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication allows vehicles to exchange information using DSRC frequencies, sharing their location, speed, direction, and other relevant information. This allows the driver and the vehicular communication system to construct a complete image of their road environment in real time.
V2V communications operate as a mesh network with every vehicle being a node that can transmit signals, as well as data from road sensors, traffic signals, and various V2I components. This allows vehicles to clearly see everything in a 300-meter radius and alert drivers of any approaching hazards or roadblocks way in advance.
Vehicle-to-Cloud (V2C) is a type of communication that uses broadband connection to link vehicles and cloud services. These can provide OTA (over-the-air) updates to the vehicle’s software, carry out remote diagnostics, connect to different household appliances integrated into the user’s IoT, and communicate with digital assistants.
The technology has great potential in the area of shared mobility. For example, the driver can set and save their preferences in the cloud (heating, seat position, radio, etc.), so that whenever they use a new vehicle, the settings are downloaded to it automatically.
Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) connectivity enables drivers to be alerted of all the pedestrians within a certain area by means of connecting to their smartphones, tablets, or mobility devices. Systems such as LiDAR can perform a similar function without connecting to any external software, but their usefulness can vary depending on such factors as weather or lighting conditions.
Wireless V2P connectivity can avoid those problems by connecting to pedestrians in several different ways. Bicycles, scooters, strollers, and wheelchairs can have a smart sensor installed to signal their presence, while handheld devices can connect to the in-vehicle communication system through specialized applications.
Vehicle-to-Device (V2D), also known as Vehicle-to-Driver, is a type of communication that connects the vehicle to the owner’s handheld device by either Bluetooth or the Internet. This has various applications, such as locking and unlocking the car doors, starting the engine, controlling the infotainment system, providing internal metrics, setting a destination and route for a self-driving vehicle, and more.
Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) is a fairly new type of automotive connectivity that facilitates a bi-directional data exchange between the vehicle communication system and the electric power grid. It can be used by battery electric vehicles (BEV), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV), and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCEV).
The spread of the V2G technology will help make electric grids more efficient and distribute loads in a way that benefits a maximum number of drivers while keeping the utility bills low. It will also keep the grid from overloading, mitigating one of the most common fears in regards to electric vehicles.
Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) is a constantly expanding and evolving set of practices the main goal of which is to maximize vehicle connections as a whole. It encompasses all the previously mentioned connectivity technologies, such as V2V, V2I, V2C, etc. The synergy born from all of these components working in tandem is the greatest advantage of V2X, as they are able to mitigate or even completely cover each other’s weaknesses and blind spots.
What Are the Current Challenges of Vehicle Connectivity?
So what’s the situation as of 2022? Car connectivity is seeing varied application all across the board, but there are still challenges that need to be resolved to unleash the technology’s full potential. We can look at it from several different angles.
The forecasts for the rates of advancement and adoption of vehicle automation are overall optimistic. However, there are many challenges that the industry needs to resolve in order to continue moving forward.
Here we should mention the five levels of vehicle autonomy defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). There, level 0 means full human control and level 5 means complete automation. Let’s look at Tesla, for example. It’s the most widespread automated vehicle brand of today, and currently, Tesla’s autopilot is only on level 2. It can handle steering and acceleration by itself, but the driver has to be ready to take over at any moment.
Google’s Waymo is a fair bit more advanced – it operates on level 4 autonomy. Sure, it’s not nearly as widespread as Tesla, but its autonomous shuttles have been reliably driving around the city of Phoenix for the past couple years. Ford have been testing out their autonomous tech as well, though in a controlled test environment: a fake city the size of 24 football fields.
So while higher levels of automation are already possible, they are limited to smaller test areas and will require more testing and development before they can be deployed on a global scale. For technologies like this to be truly reliable, the car needs to have a superhuman perception of the environment around it.
All in all, accounting for all the possible variables has turned out more complex than many automakers originally thought. That said, the new possibilities brought about by 5G will greatly aid in improving modern vehicles’ connective and autonomous capabilities.
While connectivity technology keeps rapidly advancing, there are issues that still need addressing when it comes to wireless data transfer. For starters, getting data from smart vehicles is somewhat of a problem.
The built-in hardware has its limitations and can only support so much software. And shipped vehicle hardware cannot be easily replaced or modified when the industry standards for it change. Many people don’t change their cars for over a decade, while software can receive major updates several times a year. Thus, in-car systems need to be able to support software for years in advance.
Secondly, that software needs to stay secure. A customer-centric experience is a great idea, but the number of requests can be throttled to defend the vehicles from service attacks, for example. When multiple applications are trying to get data from a vehicle simultaneously, one error can have disastrous consequences. Not to mention the incredible danger that malicious attacks on smart car systems may pose.
API and Network Connection
One of the biggest vehicle connectivity challenges today is compensating for a weak cellular range. There’s no guarantee that the user signal will be delivered to the car and if it will respond without lag – if it responds at all. That’s why modern vehicle APIs cannot rely on connections with personal devices too much.
This problem can be solved by asynchronous APIs, which are becoming more and more common among OEMs. This type of API can limit resource consumption to prevent timeouts and unknown system states. It’s often paired with a connector which handles retires, batching, throttling, and the caching of requests and responses.
Generally, modern car manufacturers are implementing a unified API concept, which lets drivers communicate with their vehicles through the cloud. The speed is the same as that of direct connections (cellular, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi), but the stability of the data exchange process is easier to maintain.
Peculiarities of Adoption
As you can see, vehicle connectivity has many technical hurdles to overcome before its implementation becomes truly uniform. But tech isn’t all there is to it: certain regulatory policies will need to be established to make connected and automated vehicles mainstream. Complex questions will need to be addressed as responsibility for road accidents gradually shifts away from drivers to their in-vehicle software.
However, it would be very wrong to say that the public is unprepared to welcome smart connected vehicles into their daily lives. For example, the support for autonomous cars in China is extremely high. Didi, a local ride-hailing service, plans to employ over one million robotaxis by 2030. Ford has also been successfully testing its C-V2X features (which provide real-time traffic alerts) on public roads in several Chinese cities.
So even though there are plenty of obstacles ahead, this evolution towards connectivity in the mobility industry is inevitable. Let’s have a quick look at what the future holds for connected cars.
What Is the Future of Connected Cars?
Vehicle connectivity will very soon become a lot more commonplace. According to this report, 96% of newly produced vehicles will have built-in connectivity by the year 2030. And drivers are excited about it: the survey suggests that approximately 80% of the people interested in V2X connectivity are even willing to share anonymous or personal connected car data to gain access to these capabilities.
At the same time, connected car trends will continue to advance. For one, AI will play a key role in making real-time data analysis and diagnostics faster and more precise. Future connected cars will come with a more robust in-car connectivity package by default, enabling vehicles to connect to various payment systems and to gather data from motion tracking, driver monitoring, cameras, and even sonars – that’s not to mention such smart features as haptic feedback, night vision, gesture control, and many other possible options.
Smart connectivity is a technology of incredible potential and is currently at the forefront of automotive trends. The ability to plug one’s vehicle into a broad digital network is invaluable when it comes to accident prevention, congestion control, infrastructural management, and general road safety. Looking at recent predictions, the future of connected cars looks bright.
If you are interested in developing smart connectivity software for vehicles, consider contacting an experienced automotive developer. Fill out a simple form to sign up for a free consultation with the expert team of Bamboo Apps.