Technology drives into the car

Cars with SIM cards, apps and voice controls are already here
Nandagopal Rajan        Print Edition: June 2013

Most of us spend a substantial part of our day commuting in a car, either driving or being driven. But even as we have become more technologically dependent over the past few years, the car has been stuck in a sort of time warp. But all that is about to change with technology coming into your cars in a big way.

HONKING AT THE FUTURE
Within a couple of years, all cars are likely to be connected, or at least be available in a connecter version. The ultimate frontier is the self-driving car. While Nvidia, Audi and others are working on "driver assistance systems projects" this will best be an incremental process with full autonomy many years away.

COMPUTERISATION OF CARS
With cars becoming an extension of the driver, computerisation of cars is becoming an inevitability. While processors have already made their way into cars, you will soon see PC like interfaces and operating systems too. There are already experiments on to integrate the Android OS in cars. At the forefront of this drive towards computerisation is Nvidia which is using automotive grade versions of its Tegra mobile processors to keeps tabs on power consumption and thermal issues in cars. In fact, there are already 2.5 million cars running with Nvidia processors.

Quote

"Our superior software supports a wide range of operating systems, from Windows and Linux to Android and QNX, delivering the best platform for a range of applications from instrument clusters to infotainment to advanced driver assistance systems," - Vishal Dhupar, Managing Director - Asia South, NVIDIA."




CONNECTED CARS
Mobile technology has never really been able to enter the car till now. But in the past year, manufacturers have started adding connectivity to their cars. At CES 2013, Audi unveiled its A3 with 4G LTE wireless connectivity powered by the second generation Gobi multimode 3G/4G LTE chipset from Qualcomm Technologies. Audi hopes it will be able to provide "enhanced features" such as incar Wi-Fi hotspot, Internet radio, web services and an augmented navigation system that streams street level visual imagery into a screen inside the vehicle.

CONNECTED DRIVE
With intelligence, processing power and connectivity coming into vehicles, it is only natural that the experience of driving a car starts to change. One of the easily visible implementations of technology in cars is Ford's Sync voice enabled interactive system, now available in India in the EcoSport SUVs. Powered by Microsoft, Sync lets you connect mobile phone or digital media player to their car via Bluetooth and USB connection respectively. Minimising distractions, Sync lets the driver make calls or play music via voice commands and a steering wheel-mounted control. Though yet to come to cars in India, Sync has other cutting edge features like Active City Stop (ACS), which applies brakes automatically if it determines a collision is imminent.

BMW iDrive
BMW's iDrive onboard driver information system brings apps, radio and navigation to the display inside the car. While the new Navigation System Professional in the BMW 7 Series includes features such as Full 3D menu displays, interactive map functions (PIE menu) and dedicated 3D graphics card, the optional fullcolour Head-up Display projects driving information via a multi-coloured TFT display directly into the driver's field of vision. This makes driving much safer. The optional BMW Night Vision system with pedestrian recognition takes safety to the next level.

A TRULY 'MOBILE' CAR FROM INDIA
M&M e20
Closer home, the new Mahindra e2o electric car is being touted as a "truly connected car" being among the first in the world to support telematics. The car will have a SIM onboard and drivers will be able to remotely connect to the car for a variety or services. For instance, you can use a PC or smartphone to see how much charge is left in the car battery or remotely switch on the air-conditioning minutes before you drive it away or just lock/unlock the car. Using this connectivity, Mahindra Reva Tech Help Desk can also remotely do prognosis and diagnostics of the car when needed. The car too can initiate communication through SMS if the driver has forgotten to lock the car or if there is a power failure as the vehicle is being charged. And thanks to the Intelligent Energy Management System onboard, the car can give details of your drive efficiency for the past six days.






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