An average American spends just over an hour and forty minutes (Tempo Blog, 2013) a day driving which doesn’t seem so bad when you think of it like that. However, when you do the calculations, that equates to 4 years and 3 months of your life spent behind the wheel… What a monumental waste of time!
The Internet of Things (IoT) has already proven itself in numerous industries as a way of making our lives far more efficient. When you look at the value-add of smart cars, smart roads and smart transport systems, you start to see some extraordinary opportunities for innovation.
What if, instead of staring blankly at the car in front of you for 45 minutes, you held a meeting with your fellow business partners? Mercedes imagines a car that is more like a living room or boardroom on wheels.
What if your business meeting didn’t go so well and you realise your company is falling apart? No worries! While you are in the office all day, your car can be out providing a taxi service for people across the city earning you some disposable income.
Google’s initial idea for their smart car was that it would do 90% of the driving and then in emergency situations (Tech Insider, 2016), control would be handed over to the user. However, they quickly realised that the users didn’t stay alert when the car was in command. This caused problems in cases where the car had to hand control back to the users. It was this realisation that changed the idea to being a fully automated vehicle that brought you from A to B at the touch of a button.
“It has shaped everything we’ve done since then. Now our cars have self-driven more than 1.4 million miles” (Tech Insider, 2016)
The question is, are we really supposed to believe that a car can drive itself with no help? The answer is yes. The driverless car is based on the utilization of a large number of sensors, lasers and radars to construct a 3-D image of its environment. This allows the car to sense oncoming obstacles and, with split-second decision making, avoid the vast majority of accidents. Deaths from traffic accidents—over 1.2 million worldwide every year—could be reduced dramatically, especially since 94% of accidents in the U.S. involve human error (Google,2016).
It’s not as if smart cars have absolutely no help finding their way from A to B though. As the use of smart cars increases, so does their efficiency. While they are still amongst manually driven cars, they have to account for human error and avoid accidents. However, once smart cars take over our roads, they will be able to communicate with each other and our road systems. This ensures every journey is as fast and as safe as possible. On the off-chance that a crash does occur, the car will not only alert the emergency services but will also send a signal to every other car in its vicinity to avoid that particular road. Ultimately, keeping congestion levels to an absolute minimum.
Unfortunately, there are some limitations to these cars. Some of the scenarios smart vehicles have the most trouble with are the scenarios human beings have the most trouble with, such as handling a yellow light (do you brake suddenly, or floor it and run the light?). For example, on a test run, a Google car was waiting to make a right turn. When the turn became safe to make, however, the car didn’t move. The reason was, there was a pedestrian standing on the footpath who was planning on jaywalking across the street. Normally a simple wave would solve the situation but in this instance, the car had to wait until the pedestrian stopped moving, before it could make the turn.
Like most new IoT related ideas, there are issues that need to be ironed out with the smart car. It may not be road-ready next week but the future certainly holds a lot of room for innovation and excitement around the smart car. So the next time you drive to work or go on a road trip, just take a second to imagine what your vehicle could do with even more IoT connections.
Bjarki, 2013. Tempo Blog. Available at: http://blog.tempo.io/2013/7-time-consuming-things-an-average-joe-spends-in-a-lifetime/ [Accessed 18 February 2016]
Schwartz, 2013. Tech Insider. Available at: http://www.techinsider.io/flaw-in-googles-driverless-car-prototype-2016-2 [Accessed 18 February 2016]
Google, 2013. Google. Available at: https://www.google.com/selfdrivingcar/ [Accessed 18 February 2016]