Smart City Mobility

Smart cities, mobility, and the road in between

Smart City Car: Connected, Intelligent, Integrated

Smart cities are powered by technologies such as the Internet of Things sensors, big data systems, and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) platforms. An inseparable part of this new infrastructure is the connected car. The global market for connected cars was worth $52 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow to $219 billion by 2025 - growth which is tightly related to the emergence of smart megacities.  

Connected cars integrate with advanced traffic management systems, becoming another sensor cities can use to optimize and reroute traffic. They can also interface with other vehicles and pedestrians, reducing the chance of accident and improving incident response, and help drivers save time and gasoline in their commutes. One step beyond connected cars is autonomous vehicles, which create an almost limitless potential for improving the efficiency of urban transport.

Read on to learn how technologies such as computer vision, connectivity, 5G, and DSRC are making connected and autonomous vehicles a reality. 

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What Is a Connected Car?

Connected cars use devices that enable access to the Internet and Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN). Connectivity opens communication channels between the vehicle and its surroundings, through ad hoc networks and advanced management systems. 

A connected car can “talk” to other cars, road sensors, traffic systems, and various networks. The information is transmitted through the connected car network and used for parking allocation, infotainment, remote diagnostics, and telematics. 

Technologies Enabling Connected Cars

Today’s technology helps create a seamless driving experience. Infrastructure sensors alert cars and drivers of traffic conditions while the GPS dictates the best routes. Virtual assistants, powered by voice recognition, help eliminate distractions by performing tasks for drivers such as sending texts and scheduling appointments. 

Four main technologies stand behind connected cars:

  • Connectivity, 5G and DSRC: 4G LTE and WiFi connect cars to the Internet, which enables sharing and receiving data from other networks. It is estimated that 5G, once fully developed, should help improve connectivity. Direct Short Range Communications (DSRC) technology, already in use, enables Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communication. DSRC helps cars share information with each other to prevent accidents, optimize navigation, and improve safety.
  • Autonomous driving and computer vision: Artificial Intelligence (AI) enables smart programs that help drivers cope with the flood of information needed to operate a vehicle. Human drivers operating semi-autonomous cars with machine learning can teach the car how to drive, and machine learning is helping develop fully autonomous cars. 
  • Telematics: Information streaming from sensors, networks, programs, vehicles, and the driver are collected, stored, monitored, and analyzed by car telematics systems. HERE’s Open Location Platform, for example, analyzes data location information about people, places, and objects, and their interactions and develop machine learning models for transport automation. Telematics help assess driver behavior and monitor vehicle diagnostics for smart maintenance.
  • Cloud platforms: Connected cars rely on technologies such as hardware, data management, and IoT. Platforms as a service (PaaS) such as Pivotal and Location World serve as the basis for customizing the technology solution for the needs of the connected car. PaaS platforms can assist in all product lifecycle stages, from development to CRM management and billing.

Types of Connectivity

A vehicle can connect to and communicate with its surroundings in several ways. The main models of communication include:

  • Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I): Enables communication between vehicles and road systems through an ad hoc network. Road systems manage information from traffic lights, streetlights, RFID readers and cameras, lane markers, and signage and parking meters.
  • Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V): Creates wireless communication channels between vehicles, so they can exchange information about their location, direction, and speed. Vehicles equipped with V2V communication and safety applications have a 360-degree view of other vehicles and can predict danger and warn the driver  
  • Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P): Alerts vehicles and drivers of pedestrian proximity, and vice versa. For example, blind-spot and forward collision warning, provide in-vehicle alerts about objects and people surrounding the vehicle. The Mobile Accessible Pedestrian Signal System lets pedestrians with sight disabilities alert nearby drivers of their presence.
  • Vehicle-to-X (V2X) = vehicle-to-everything: Creates an intelligent transport system by combining different communication types such as V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure), V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle), and V2P (vehicle-to-pedestrian). The platforms form one management system that provides accurate traffic information and enables optimization for better flow, low CO2 emissions, and fewer motor accidents.
  • Brain-to-Vehicle Technology: Opens a communication channel between the driver’s brain and the vehicle’s system through the use of a headset. Using electrodes, the headset measures the driver’s brainwave activity, and then transfers the data to the vehicle’s systems. The vehicle’s autonomous systems analyze the data to predict and anticipate driver behaviors. In autonomous mode, the AI can use the data from the headset to evaluate driver discomfort and change the vehicle’s driving style accordingly. 

Connected Vehicles in Smart Cities

Information and communication technologies (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) innovations are vital for planning and maintaining smart city transport infrastructure. A network of sensors, applications, devices, and services, supports car connectivity. IoT devices give cities the ability to form an intelligent, unified mobility system to improve traffic congestion, energy consumption, and motor safety.

In smart cities, connected cars can pair with advanced traffic management systems to create a seamless driving experience for commuters. Connected cars collect and share real-time data about roads, pedestrians, surrounding vehicles, and cyclists. Smart cities can use this information to provide citizens with improved transportation services, such as efficient incident response, traffic optimization and re-routing.

Drawbacks and Challenges of Connected Cars

Connected cars raise concerns related to security, privacy and physical safety of their drivers. These concerns are gradually being addressed by the transport industry.

Security Issues 

The technology behind connected cars has developed to enable autonomous driving. As car manufacturers integrate more networks, the connected car has become more exposed to attack. Semi-autonomous vehicles with V2V and V2I systems carry the same risk. 

Examples of possible security threats:

  • Unauthorized vehicle entry: Many vehicle companies have replaced physical ignition systems with mobile applications or wireless key fobs. However, this hasn’t made cars theft-proof. Car thieves, for example, can intercept the wireless communication between the vehicle, the keyless system, and the vehicle.
  • Mobile application security: The popularity of mobile applications has backfired on automobile manufacturers, as they now attract unwanted attention from hackers. Nissan, for example, had to pull its NissanConnect EV out of the market because it gave attackers the ability to drain the car battery.
  • Algorithm vulnerabilities: Modern cars are vulnerable to hardware and software attacks. Hackers can use the diagnostic ports or wireless connections of cars to feed them false information. Since the algorithms that currently control vehicles and traffic are designed to believe the information they receive, the car has no defense against fake data. The breach “confuses” cars and traffic systems and can cause chaos. 

Reliability Issues 

Since cars undergo continuous wear due to weather exposure and road conditions, the electronic components need to be designed and tested for long term durability. An electrical spark can damage critical components, leading to expensive repairs. One sensor malfunction could confuse drivers and lead to fatal accidents. 

Connected cars rely on an exhaustive set of electronic parts and sensors that need to work well throughout the life-cycle of the car, and manufacturers need to ensure each component is reliable. They can develop trustworthy connected car components through physics and reliability testing. 

Privacy Issues 

Knowledge is power, and many companies and individuals are interested in getting to the information stored and collected by vehicles. Car manufacturers, for example, use onboard connected systems to collect data about the drivers such as personal taste in music, driving habits, vehicle performance, and vehicle location. 

Information such as app usage and location can help advertisers optimize their marketing, and insurance companies can use sensors to see when a driver goes over the speed limit. However, there are no privacy regulations protecting car owners. Many owners don’t know how much data is collected about them and the nature of this data. Security isn’t optimal yet, so private information is also exposed to attacks.

Transforming the Car: From Environmental Burden to a Boon

One of the biggest challenges facing large cities today is the societal and environmental burden of private cars. Private cars are the primary cause of unbearable congestion and pollution in large city centers. Legislators and city governments are doing everything they can to reduce private car ownership, for example by encouraging smart, shared forms of transport. 

The smart car can change all that. A truly intelligent, autonomous vehicle can have a drastically different impact on its environment. Whether owned by private citizens, private transport operators or the city itself, an autonomous car will have no need for parking, will make much more efficient use of road infrastructure, and is also likely to be electrically-powered. The road-hogging monster of the early 21st century will become an elegant, community-empowering vehicle that conserves resources instead of squandering them. It’s a dream, but one that all major automotive manufacturers and the world’s technology giants are actively working on, and is already starting to hit the road.