x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

A connected-car future is closer than you think

Apps are just the start of it. New systems such as MirrorLink, Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto will enable drivers to control certain smartphone apps from the dashboard, but apps that you’ll be able to purchase and download direct from the car itself are starting to become available.

Courtesy of Audi
Courtesy of Audi

If you thought that modern cars were complex – and a premium car does require about 200 million lines of computer code to keep it running these days – then, frankly, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Because although science fiction has been writing cheques for years that science hasn’t been able to cash, it finally looks as if a new generation of connected cars will be driving out of showrooms in the next few years.

It’s relatively early days yet and there are still hurdles to surmount, but the first shoots of real connectivity are emerging – and if the predictions offered at the recent Connected Cars 2014 conference in Amsterdam are fulfilled, our cars will soon make smartphones look like two cans joined by a piece of string.

Apps are just the start of it. New systems such as MirrorLink, Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto will enable drivers to control certain smartphone apps from the dashboard, but apps that you’ll be able to purchase and download direct from the car itself are starting to become available. There will be navigation and music-streaming apps, and apps to help us drive more smoothly and efficiently, but we can also look forward to some that take information from the vehicle and combine it with useful data beamed into the car.

So if, for example, the car detects that you’re short on fuel, it will automatically tell you the nearest filling station or the cheapest one on the route that you’ve programmed into your satellite navigation system.

Or if you install a parking app on to your in-vehicle infotainment system, and you set a course for downtown to go shopping, to the cinema or to a restaurant, it will keep you constantly updated with the car parks that have spaces – and could even guide you directly to an empty bay, eliminating the need for that stressful, head-swivelling meander around the car park.

The car will be able to receive (and transmit) information because embedded SIM cards will use mobile networks to become part of what is known as the Internet of Things, which will enable all kinds of devices – from TVs and fridges to cars – to connect to each other and share data. In the case of cars, they will be constantly relaying information about a car and its driver to a cloud computing system.

This will have numerous benefits for all of us who drive. Let’s imagine a time when all our cars are connected and are continuously relaying GPS data about their position and speed. If there’s a traffic jam and a couple of hundred cars are communicating where they are and that they’re going nowhere fast, the cloud will be able to communicate real-time traffic information to other cars heading towards the congested area, routing them away to avoid making the problem worse – and reducing the amount of wasted fuel and stress.

Because our car’s exact position will be known at all times, in the event of a crash or a car malfunction, the emergency services or breakdown service will be automatically dispatched to you, knowing where you are and exactly what has happened.

And all this data about us as drivers, because it is cloud-based, will also be portable, so we will be able to log in to any car that we drive and access our apps, previous satnav destinations, music playlists – even our seat settings.

BMW says that its ConnectedDrive system, already available in its model range, will be able to deliver this type of service in the near future. Mercedes Me, a new service to be launched in September in the next-gen CLS, will also start to take the brand’s customers down the route.

So while connected cars are still largely in our future, that future will be upon us a lot sooner than we might have imagined, turning science fiction into science fact.

Now, about those jet packs ...

weekend@thenational.ae