The automotive industry is undergoing a revolution as wireless technology helps usher in the age of the connected car. This new generation of vehicles will enable faster, safer, cheaper, greener, and more comfortable journeys.
With advanced connectivity, cars will automatically communicate with each other and road infrastructure to improve safety and prevent congestion, while also allowing drivers to personalize their in-vehicle experience, making journeys more comfortable.
On average, every new car, for example, contains more than eight networking chips -- from a company like ours (NXP) -- which connect critical components to one another as well as the outside world. As the majority of vehicles become connected cars within the next decade, we expect this market to grow enormously. At the center of this change will be three key technologies -- advanced Telematics, Car2X-Communication, and Near Field Communication (NFC).
While telematics have been an important part of the automotive industry for some time, the very latest techniques are set to become a standard element in all new cars. Historically, telematics has allowed engineers to connect to a car, initially through a cable and now wirelessly in more advanced models, in order to run diagnostics as well as disable the vehicle in the event of theft. However, the use case is now expanding dramatically as the industry strives to improve safety and tackle traffic congestion.
The latest systems combine GPS, cellular, advanced security, and in-car connectivity (e.g. the Controller Area Network, USB, and NFC). The most important application of this technology is the eCall automatic emergency system, which automatically sends an electronic "distress signal" via the mobile network to the emergency services in the event of an accident -- providing location as well as airbag and impact information. While this is present in some vehicles already, it will become mandatory in all new cars in the EU in 2015, marking a serious evolution in automotive safety.
Connect cars with each other and with infrastructure
A more fundamental change to the industry is being driven by the move to connect cars with each other and roadside infrastructure via the dedicated automotive WiFi standard 802.11p. This means that cars will continuously update nearby vehicles and infrastructure with their speed, position, and direction in order to prevent accidents and traffic congestion.
As a result, drivers will be warned about issues such as potential intersection collisions, nearby emergency braking, blind spot or lane-change issues, and "do not pass" warnings. It also means that information regarding potential traffic congestion can be collected ahead of time and updated route suggestions distributed. This technology will ultimately create quicker and safer journeys -- and therefore, cheaper and greener ones, too.
New connection technologies will also help to make journeys more comfortable.
NFC means that with just a tap of your smartphone to your car key, you can use the phone to monitor the status of your car -- including applications such as maintenance status, door lock status, car finder, and many more. Similarly, by tapping your smartphone to the car entertainment system, you can customize all your in-car settings -- from favourite music and preferred interior lighting levels to exact seat adjustment and air con preferences. In addition to that, NFC enabled driving licenses and smartphones can be used for accessing rental cars or car-sharing vehicles.
The connected car certainly has an exciting journey ahead of it. As more and more cars are able to share ever increasing amounts of data, there's almost no limit to how much safer and more efficient journeys can become.
— Lars Reger is vice president of strategy, New Business, and R&D for the automotive business unit at NXP Semiconductors. In this role, he is responsible for developing new technologies and business opportunities around emerging growth areas, including telematics and car-to-X communications; NFC in the car; wireless charging; LED lighting; and software-defined radio.