Insight: It's a Car, It's a Drone, It's... IoT

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Thursday, June 18, 2015 with No comments

When I learned to drive a car, my dad told me there are only two rules to being a safe, driver: "Don't hit anybody, and don't let anybody hit you." According to a recent RCRWireless report on results from the Google self-driving car program, it seems that today's prototype autonomous cars have mastered the first rule, and are closing in on 100% application of the second. 



Over the course of six years, Google's fleet of 20-plus self-driving cars covered 1 million miles collectivity under totally automatic control, RCRWireless reported. They were involved in only 11 accidents, all of which fell into the "I let somebody hit me" category. The majority happened on city streets, and most were incidents of being hit from behind. There were also a few side-swipes and one case of being hit by a car rolling through a stop sign. 

If you want to get all futuristic about it, the lesson is that humans cause traffic accidents (especially at intersections), and the way to avoid those is have a computer take over. (One has to wonder, though, how many of the accidents mentioned by Google are attributable to the human driver being distracted by something like using a cell phone. Ahem.)

Self-driving cars (which certainly qualify as 'connected vehicles' since they use on-board and external data sources to make decision) may be nearly perfect at navigating physical traffic, but they potentially could contribute to another type of traffic jam: mobile network congestion.

A recent Machina Research report commissioned by analytics company TEOCO predicts that connected cars in use during rush hour could play a significant role in some mobile network cells experiencing a 97% increase in data traffic over the next 10 years, Fierce Wireless said. It's a warning to operators: get ready for for the influx of upcoming machine-to-machine (M2M) connections. 

That influx could be especially burdensome if connected cars end up suing over-the-air (OTA) platforms to update all modules in the vehicle, RCRWireless said. OTA updates are a topic of intense debate. Questions abound: Is this safe? Is there enough bandwidth? Can you update all electronic control units (ECUs) simultaneously? 

Most OTA efforts for connected cars are focused on infotainment-related updates rather than safety and operational ECUs, but some automobile OEMs--including Tesla--are experimenting with more comprehensive options. Software-defined car, anyone?

On a related note, a recent strategic partnership between Audi Electronics Ventures and Cubic Telecom illustrates how the telecommunications and automotive industries are joining hands to develop connected car solutions and drive (pun intended) the future of M2M/IoT, RCRWireless reported

Audi Electronic Ventures is an innovation subsidiary of Audi AG, tasked with investing in technology opportunities for Audi vehicles. Cubic Telecom is an Ireland-based cloud M2M connectivity platform provider that targets IoT and enterprise customers. Together, the two companies are working on a range of connectivity applications, RCRWireless said. That's a bit vague, but they did hint that their focus is "infotainment solutions."

That certainly isn't the only example of technology innovators in a variety of categories getting into the connected car business. Case in point: Apple is reportedly exploring the car market as a significant area of investment, Fierce Wireless said in an article exploring the Apple Watch and other Apple tech developments. 

There are rumors that Apple has devoted several hundred employees to a secret project (or, ahem, not secret anymore?) to create an Apple-branded electric vehicle, possibly for launch as early as 2020. Now wouldn't that be interesting?

Let's close on a completely different note: drones. Last month, Amazon got Federal approval to move ahead with its drone delivery program, Amazon Prime Air, Fierce Wireless reported. Getting a package delivered to your house by an unmanned drone is still quite a ways off, but this futuristic vision is starting to seem more likely. 

What future do you envision for IoT?
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