Travel on Road to the Internet of Things

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The Information Superhighway will look different as it intersects with the Internet of Things.

University of British Columbia professor of Sociology Neil Gross accurately predicted the Internet of Things back in 1999, saying:

“In the next century, planet earth will don an electric skin. It will use the Internet as a scaffold to support and transmit its sensations.”

Today, activity trackers log heart rates, steps taken and more. Parents fit infants with monitored onesies that track body positions as they sleep. Homeowners turn appliances on and off while they’re away from home and record energy consumption data.

This device-to-data connectivity is the current Internet of Things, and tomorrow it will transform automobile travel.

A smooth ride?

A driverless car, also called an autonomous car, travels without a human operator. Its autonomous nature allows it to navigate an environment by collecting data, without human influence.

Driverless cars must deliver big on two metrics against manual driving: Efficiency and safety.

Driverless cars operate on a more complex plane than most Internet of Things interactions. It takes a two-way communication to set your home security system from your office. Driverless cars require connectivity to a grid. They must collect data on all surrounding structures, animate and inanimate.

It’s all possible … but is it probable? And what infrastructure could support it all?

Driverless cars motoring ahead

Tech research firm Gartner says connected devices will reach 4.9 billion in 2015. It projects a fivefold increase by 2020 to 25 billion and estimates that by this time, one in five cars will carry wireless connections. That translates to more than 250 million worldwide.

Studies by McKinsey and Telefonica reveal the consumer’s insistence that cars be connected.

For a while, autonomous cars will likely share the road with non-autonomous vehicles. It could prove a tricky transition, but self-drive lanes and roads dedicated to driverless cars could ease the changeover. Several advances in driver technology will lead to autonomy on the highway:

ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL | It adjusts vehicle speed for conditions. Data procurement and speed profiles will factor into an ideal travel plan. Imagine settings for comfort, standard and sporty driving.

FORWARD COLLISION WARNING | Camera and radar sensors track the road ahead. Cars with a common destination could flock together for efficiency as this evolves.

LANE DEPARTURE WARNING | Technology alerts drivers if they approach road surface markers. This will comprise the infrastructure for the concept of Live Roads.

Technology key to Easy Street

Roads must become more than concrete surfaces for autonomous cars to travel on. Consider the factors that play into your commute. Traffic volume, weather, and other dynamic events like accidents or construction affect your trip and most efficient route.

360.here.com estimates a driverless car’s sensing horizon at about 328 feet. That translates to 3 seconds of reaction time. On its own, this isn’t enough time for a vehicle to gather data for safe travel. It will need to rely on multiple sources for the complete picture.

Autonomous cars aware of their position aren’t enough. Cloud services and highway beacons will need to communicate with moving cars and alert them to conditions and what local laws allow.

A system of autonomy isn’t far off, but isn’t here yet. These things are a good start, though:

SENSOR TOLL BOOTHS | They replace manned stations with scanners that read license plates.

WEATHER SENSORS | The department of transportation can alert drivers to changing conditions.

METER/PARKING MONITORING | Apps aid drivers in finding a place to park with real-time updates.

These developments and others are happening around us, oftentimes undetected. At this rate, traffic jams and smog-infused commutes could go the way of the Studebaker – off the road forever – as technology evolves.


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About Author

Eli

Eli studied English and Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte. A former sportswriter, he writes a blog about coaching his daughters in soccer and once was mistaken for racecar driver Juan Pablo Montoya. He writes on the Internet and other technology. He’s a native of Greeley, Colo., an avid NPR listener and average disc golfer.

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