Connected cars help you drive safely and more comfortably. But there might be some things that a connected car can do that you are not aware of. And these things might surprise you.
So what are these surprising things that your car may be able to do now and what are the things that it can potentially do in the future?
1. Smart cars.
The Internet of Things has enabled everyday items to communicate with one another. Your smartphone, using its built-in GPS feature, can tell if you are already close to home and it can send a message to your thermostat to turn on the air conditioning. Your refrigerator would know if you are out of milk and it can tell you to buy some the next time you are at a grocery.
As for cars, they are getting equipped with the same sensors that most smart appliances have. What does this mean for you? Safer time on the road. Imagine if the car ahead of you would be able to warn your car that it was stopping or turning left. That means your car would be able to alert you of that, giving you enough time to react and avoid a possible collision with the car ahead.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced that they will soon require light vehicles to have this kind of technology, which they call vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology. The DOT said that enabling cars to talk to one another serves really well as a crash avoidance tool. It also gives the driver a 360-degree awareness anytime he or she is inside the car.
2. Learning cars.
Your cars are going to be equipped with an onboard computer that would be able to collect data from a lot of sources. It will also be able to learn about your driving habits and your schedules. For example, if it is a weekday and you get into your car at 7:00 am, it knows that you are on your way to the office and will check traffic reports, road conditions and the weather to be able to provide you with the best way and fastest route to get the office that day. This happens even if you do not do anything such as inputting your location on your car’s GPS navigation system. Not only that, it can also turn itself on at 6:55 am to make sure that you are comfortable the moment you come into the car. It will also turn on the radio and switch to your favorite FM station.
3. Cars that monitor the drivers.
Advancements in car technology do not only involve the machinery, but also the driver. Researchers are now busy at work trying to find out how to monitor human drivers. The logic is that sensors would be able to pick up your vitals such as brain activity, eye movements, heart rate and other indicators that you are having health-related problems, or if you are getting sleepy. This means that your car would be able to alert you if you are having a heart attack, or if you are falling asleep on the wheel. There is also research into allowing your car to tell if you are drunk.
As early as 2007, Nissan has been looking at different anti-drunk driving technologies such as alcohol detecting transmission shift knob sensors. The sensors collect your sweat and analyze it to see the level of alcohol you have in your body. The car would also have sensors to “sniff” alcohol. Meaning, if you reek of alcohol, you would not be able to drive. It also makes use of a facial recognition technology that would help detect if you are conscious or not. It also measures your behavior, like it checks whether you are constantly veering out of your lane, or are constantly getting distracted.
4. How about external airbags?
Airbags are great in that it helps keep you unharmed in a collision. But we know that sometimes they are just not enough. Now you have external airbags that are deployed by cameras and sensors. These sensors and cameras determine if you are headed for a collision and then send a signal to the airbag to deploy. According to the Mail Online, these airbags would be available by 2020.
But know that Volvo already has external airbags that protect the front bumper. They also use cameras and sensors to signal the need for these external airbags to deploy.
5. Cars that drive you.
In the near future, you might be able to read the newspaper, do your nails or apply makeup while your car drives you to work. You no longer have to do anything but sit inside your car. Hey, you can even sleep while your car is driving you to work, how is that? Google is currently testing autonomous cars in Nevada and California, which are the only states where they are allowed to do so. And how do these self-driving cars fare? They found out that the autonomous cars are safer drivers than humans! For one, human drivers braked and accelerated more sharply than when the cars drove themselves. The software also helped keep safe distance between other cars, better than human drivers do.
In short, these self-driving cars can help cut energy costs and can help you become safer on the road and even ease traffic congestion. You also do not have to own them. You do not have to find parking spaces for them. They can just drive away when you do not need them anymore. For example, these cars can leave you at the doorway when you get home from the office. No need to park, no need to find a parking space.
But do not hold your breath just yet. Self-driving cars are not going to be available anytime soon.
6. Cars that park themselves.
Even if your car cannot drive you just yet, you would be delighted to know that, in the near future, you can leave your car to park by itself. No more struggling with parallel parking or looking for an empty space in a crowded parking lot. No more fighting with other drivers over a parking spot. Researchers are now looking for ways to allow you to leave the parking-related stress behind as soon as you close the door. You only need to push a button and the vehicle will search for a free parking space and park itself there. It will then send you a message to tell you where it is. Or you could just open a mobile app to summon your car over when you need it and it will fetch you where you left it.
This system is an improvement of the current ones where you have cameras and sensors that allow you to have a better view while parking. There are also systems that help you park, controlling your steering wheel and brakes and then moving by itself. But you would still need to be inside the car for some tasks, such as going forward or shifting to reverse.
7. Smart headlights.
Another technology to look forward to when it comes to cars is the smart headlights. These are laser headlights that automatically adjust their brightness or direction depending on the road conditions, the weather and other factors. Sounds like you might be blinding other drivers, right? There is no chance of that, because the laser lights are bounced off mirrors and reflectors. This means that these lights will not damage other drivers’ eyes, nor will it blind them with intense glare.
What’s more, these laser headlights will rely on sensors to detect if there are incoming cars so that they could direct themselves away from these cars.
8. Call 911!
When you drive a connected car, you would appreciate how it could call 911 if you get into an accident. The system detects if you get into a collision, and automatically calls 911 for help. Even if you are unconscious, it can still send your GPS information to the 911 operator so that help could be dispatched your way.
9. In-car infotainment.
There are now vehicles that allow you to stream music from the Internet and learn more about certain places by giving you historical information on a building or a landmark. Some infotainment systems can even turn your car into a Wi-Fi hotspot. It can also connect to your smartphone so that you do not have to take out your phone to read an SMS message, and instead just have your car read it for you. Because earlier versions of in-car infotainment systems have been criticized as very distracting, carmakers are now focused on adding features to their infotainment systems so that you no longer have to look at it and you no longer have to touch it.
The progress of technologies for the car has been quite slow. It has been decades since the first cars were introduced, but the vehicles have remained essentially the same. With all of this progress, we can expect safer roads and more convenient driving, thanks to connected cars.
Photos courtesy of joezero5, Nissan Global, SWNS and BMW.