Web-Enabled Automobiles

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Web-enabled automobiles, or the internet of cars, refers to the trend of automobiles becoming the "ultimate mobile device"[1] as a result of emerging internet technologies. In the last 5-10 years, the automobile industry has been changing their business models to adapt to the interconnected world. Exciting technological advancements, such as self-driving cars and augmented reality dashboards, will revolutionize the way people use cars.


Existing Technologies

In-car technologies of the 21st century have advanced to the point where it can now help dictate human driving choices and behaviour. Due to the mainstream use of mobile devices, these technologies have been focused on smartphone integration. Features, such as computerized engine controls, bluetooth connectivity, and voice recognition, are now considered a norm. In addition to smartphone integration, current automobile designs are also trending towards safety-based functionalities, such as active driving aids.

Smartphone Integration & Convergence of Technologies

In the last 5 years, there have already been early signs of smartphone communications being integrated into the transportation industry. Everyday examples that you may find are Wi-Fi access on buses, trains, and airplanes. As of 2014, many industries we may have not expected to be associated with the automotive industry before are rumoured to have already invested substantial research and development in creating future services and technology for cars.

Hardware Technology

Wireless Connectivity
Prior to 2014, there have already been some technologies that pioneered wireless connectivity in cars such as GPS navigation, bluetooth satellite radio, and live security services (like On-Star). These pioneer technologies first opened the possibility that two-way wireless communications is feasible. The next steps for automotive electronic computer systems are moving beyond engine controls to real communicative interactions with the driver and passengers, other cars, and public traffic systems. Hardware that current (and future) power current smartphone devices such as 4G LTE, computer processing chips would gradually be integrated as part of the overall car electronic system.[2] For example, Qualcomm, a well-known company that makes many highend smartphone processing chips, are already making substantial strives into the automotive indsutry. [3] As a result, this would open up many opportunities for M2M technology growth and new services.

Leveraging wireless connectivity and computerized processing chips, this will increase opportunities for integration of multitude of sensors. It has been predicted by many industries and thought leaders like Mark Cuban that it will soon become a sensor-driven world.[4] Sensors will be the key technology behind machine-to-machine (M2M) communication between cars and central public traffic controls in the future. Given that it is just an educated guess, streets and traffic intersections will be filled with sensors that communicate with cars to provide valuable data to detect traffic volume, congestion and vehicle identification. The technology could possibly be disruptive to the public services, urban planning, civil engineering industry.[5]

Software Technology


In the last few years, companies such as BlackBerry, Google, and Apple have made substantial effort to entering the automotive industry with the introduction of their OS in vehicle controls and visual dashboards. Many prototypes have been introduced and showcased in auto shows. [6] The next steps for these high tech giants paving the way for augmented reality to be incorporated into the driving experience. The integration of smartphone technology in the automotive industry will also birth new services that don't exist yet. For example, it may soon be noticeable that telecommunication companies start offering wireless services such as their 5G network for cars, or wireless services in cars even made mandatory by the government for traffic flow and a centralized, automated transportation purposes.

Car manufacturers, in particular General Motors, are partnering up with telecommunications companies to create wireless hot spots based in cars. [7] Telecommunications companies are now able to connect to the automobile in a way that has never been done before. With the addition of cloud, functionalities, like networked traffic systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communication, creates a more efficient transportation infrastructure. For the driver and passenger, cloud in automobiles will open up a new range of entertainment options. Applications that are internet-dependent, such as Spotify [1], can now target automotive industries to promote their product. While this may result in distractions for the driver raising safety concerns, car companies are now developing cars to be more and more autonomous.

Active Driving Aids

Infiniti Q50 features [8]

Active driving aids are developed with safety as the main purpose. However, these technologies will be the building blocks for the not too distance future of self-driving cars. The Infiniti commercial on the right showcases how these technologies can be used for the every day driver. The following examples of mainstream driving aids use a combination of the above hardware and software technologies:

Lane Departure Warning is a mechanism that warns the driver if the car is moving out of its lane, unless the turn signal is on. Laser or infrared sensors, mounted on the windshield or under the vehicle, detect the lines on the ground. Depending on the system, it can either 1) warn the driver through an alert, or 2) actively take steps to ensure the car does not drift outside the lines. [1]

Traffic Sign Recognition feature will warn drivers if they not following the road sign limits. Using a sensor, the system will recognize speed limits and notify drivers if they are not following the established protocols. [2]

Intelligent Brake Assist refers to the vehicle's braking system responding automatically according to the situation. Laser sensors detect the preceding vehicle along with the speed of the car. The system will activate brakes if necessary. In some cases, a warning alarm may also sound to warn the driver. [3]

Blind Spot Detection is a build-in sensor that will warn the driver visually, audibly, or tactilely about other vehicles in the drivers' blind spot. As with most mainstream driving aids, this feature was designed with safety in mind. [4]

Emerging Technologies

Augmented Reality Dashboards

Autoglass 2020 vision: the future of the car windscreen [5]

Augmented reality dashboards are virtual interactive display projected on a car’s windshield. Using a combination of various technologies, such as GPS, online maps, and visual sensors, companies are able to generate useful information for drivers in real time. The car’s windshield will soon become a virtual information screen which can enhance information sharing and driver experience.

As a leading company in the vehicle windshield repair and replacement industry, Autoglass has created a video that displays their vision on future car windshields. By 2020, Autoglass envision drivers to be able to access all the information they need when they are driving by looking at the car’s windshield.[1] From the Autoglass 2020 vision video, the functionality of augmented reality dashboards include:

  • Displays standard dashboard information (speed, gear, fuel level, warning lights)
  • Displays the name of the song that is currently played
  • Displays advertisement such as local store deals and specials
  • Provides traffic information (warns the driver of any traffic congestions ahead)
  • Warns driver of potential hazards on the road (e.g. cyclists and pedestrians)
  • Calls emergency services when necessary

Jaguar Virtual Windscreen [2]

Jaguar Land Rover is another company that is exploring implementing augmented reality with car windshields.[1] Within the auto industry, Jaguar Land Rover targets consumers interested in performance driving. With this in mind, their needs for an augmented reality dashboard is different from Autoglass’.

From the video, Jaguar Land Rover is developing an augmented reality dashboard that displays useful driving information for drivers. For example:

  • Racing lines to aid drivers align their car to the optimum line of a race track
  • Braking guidance shows drivers when to apply the brakes on a turn
  • Virtual cones for drivers to practice their vehicle handling
  • Ghost cars can help drivers practice against simulated opponents
  • Lap times display how long it takes the driver to complete a lap

Risks & Implications
Convenient and informative driving experience
Distracted driving
Reduction of navigational errors
Disruptive technology
Additional support for new drivers
Driving schools may become obsolete

Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication

ConnectSafe Wireless Vehicle Communication System [2]

Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication is an emerging technology that allows vehicles to communicate with each other. Vehicles that are equipped with communication systems are able to share information with other vehicles. For example, one car can share information with another regarding the current speed and direction they are travelling, which can allow the other car to make a decision based on the information given.

ConnectSafe is a wireless vehicle communication system that uses short range wireless communication and GPS to allow cars to communicate with each other and to roadside infrastructure. ConnectSafe is also Australia's first field trial of a vehicle communication system and is being conducted by the University of South Australia and Cohda Wireless.[1]

As seen in the video, ConnectSafe can increase awareness for drivers of nearby vehicles, even if the driver cannot see them. This technology can greatly reduce vehicle collisions and human deaths every year. In addition, this system can also provide real-time notification to drivers of upcoming roadworks or congestions, which allows the driver to choose an alternative route to reach their destination. However, the driver is always in control of the vehicle and this system only provides more information for the driver when they're driving. ConnectSafe is unable to control the vehicle when immediate action is required to avoid hazardous situations such as a car running a red light.

Risks & Implications
Increase communication while driving
Driver is still in control at all times
Reach destination quicker
Data privacy and security issues
Reduce vehicle accidents

Self-driving/Autonomous Cars

An autonomous car, also known as a driverless car, self-driving car, or robotic car is an autonomous vehicle capable of fulfilling the transportation capabilities of a traditional car. Autonomous vehicles sense their surroundings using technologies such as radar, lidar, GPS, and computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage. By definition, autonomous vehicles are capable of updating their maps based on sensory input, allowing the vehicles to track their position even when conditions change or when entering uncharted environments.

The Google Self-Driving Car Project [2]

The concept of self driving vehicles existed since the invention of automobiles.

1953 - RCA Labs successfully built a miniature car that was guided and controlled by wires that were laid in a pattern on a laboratory floor. The system sparked the imagination of Leland M. Hancock, traffic engineer in the Nebraska Department of Roads, and of his director, L. N. Ress, state engineer. The decision was made to experiment with the system in actual highway installations.

1958 - A full size system was successfully demonstrated by RCA Labs and the State of Nebraska on a 400-foot strip of public highway just outside Lincoln, Neb. A series of experimental detector circuits buried in the pavement were a series of lights along the edge of the road. The detector circuits were able to send impulses to guide the car and determine the presence and velocity of any metallic vehicle on its surface. It was developed in collaboration with General Motors, who paired two standard models with equipment consisting of special radio receivers and audible and visual warning devices that were able to simulate automatic steering, accelerating and brake control.

1960 - Ohio State University's Communication and Control Systems Laboratory launched a project to develop driverless cars which were activated by electronic devices imbedded in the roadway. Head of the project, Dr. Robert L. Cosgriff, claimed in 1966 that the system could be ready for installation on a public road in 15 years.

1980 - A vision-guided Mercedes-Benz robotic van, designed by Ernst Dickmanns and his team at the Bundeswehr University Munich in Munich, Germany, achieved a speed of 39 miles per hour (63 km/h) on streets without traffic. Subsequently, EUREKA conducted the €749 million Prometheus Project on autonomous vehicles from 1987 to 1995.

1995 - Dickmanns' re-engineered autonomous S-Class Mercedes-Benz undertook a 990 miles (1,590 km) journey from Munich in Bavaria, Germany to Copenhagen, Denmark and back, using saccadic computer vision and transputers to react in real time. The robot achieved speeds exceeding 109 miles per hour (175 km/h) on the German Autobahn, with a mean time between human interventions of 5.6 miles (9.0 km), or 95% autonomous driving. It drove in traffic, executing manoeuvres to pass other cars. Despite being a research system without emphasis on long distance reliability, it drove up to 98 miles (158 km) without human intervention.

2001 - The US Government funded three military efforts known as Demo I (US Army), Demo II (DARPA), and Demo III (US Army). Demo III demonstrated the ability of unmanned ground vehicles to navigate miles of difficult off-road terrain, avoiding obstacles such as rocks and trees. James Albus at the National Institute for Standards and Technology provided the Real-Time Control System which is a hierarchical control system. Not only were individual vehicles controlled (e.g. throttle, steering, and brake), but groups of vehicles had their movements automatically coordinated in response to high level goals.

2010 - The concept became prevalent in 2010, when Google started their own self-driving car project[1]. In April 2014, the team announced that their vehicles have now logged nearly 700,000 autonomous miles (1.1 million km). In late May, Google revealed a new prototype of its driverless car, which had no steering wheel, gas pedal, or brake pedal, being 100% autonomous.

2014 - Tesla Motors announced its first version of AutoPilot. Cars equipped with this system are capable of lane control with autonomous steering, braking and speed limit adjustment based on signals image recognition. The system also provide autonomous parking and is able to receive software updates to improve skills over time.

Five Levels of Autonomous Cars

Many cars on the road today have some sort of automated features, such as cruise control.

In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established an official classification system[2]:

Level 0
The driver completely controls the vehicle at all times.
Level 1
Individual vehicle controls are automated, such as electronic stability control or automatic braking.
Level 2
At least two controls can be automated in unison, such as adaptive cruise control in combination with lane keeping.
Level 3
The driver can fully cede control of all safety-critical functions in certain conditions. The car senses when conditions require the driver to retake control and provides a "sufficiently comfortable transition time" for the driver.
Level 4
The vehicle performs all safety-critical functions for the entire trip, with the driver not expected to control the vehicle at any time. As this vehicle would control all functions from start to stop, including all parking functions, it could include unoccupied cars.

Electric Vehicles (EV)

An electric vehicle (EV), also referred to as an electric drive vehicle, uses one or more electric motors or traction motors for propulsion. An electric vehicle may be powered through a collector system by electricity from off-vehicle sources, or may be self-contained with a battery or generator to convert fuel to electricity. The efficiency of electric vehicles is much higher compared to traditional combustion engine vehicles. EV uses less resources and create less pollution, which makes it very appealing in the long run.

The first electric cars appeared in the 1880s. Electric cars were popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century, until advances in internal combustion engines and mass production of cheaper gasoline vehicles led to a decline in the use of electric drive vehicles. The energy crises of the 1970s and 1980s brought a short-lived interest in electric cars; although, those cars did not reach the mass marketing stage, as is the case in the 21st century. Since 2008, a renaissance in electric vehicle manufacturing has occurred due to advances in batteries and power management, concerns about increasing oil prices, and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Several national and local governments have established tax credits, subsidies, and other incentives to promote the introduction and adoption in the mass market of new electric vehicles depending on battery size and their all-electric range.

Current State of EVs

An overview of the EV market and electric powered technologies.

Pros and Cons of an Electric Vehicle [3]

Price: The up-front purchase price of electric cars is significantly higher than conventional internal combustion engine cars, even after considering government incentives for plug-in electric vehicles available in several countries. The primary reason is the high cost of car batteries. The high purchase price is hindering the mass transition from gasoline cars to electric cars. Several governments have established policies and economic incentives to overcome existing barriers, promote the sales of electric cars, and fund further development of electric vehicles, batteries and components. Several national and local governments have established tax credits, subsidies, and other incentives to reduce the net purchase price of electric cars and other plug-ins.

Maintenance: Electric cars have expensive batteries that must be replaced if they become defective, however the lifetime of said batteries can be very long (many years). Otherwise, electric cars incur very low maintenance costs, particularly in the case of current lithium-based designs. The documentary film Who "Killed the Electric Car?" shows a comparison between the parts that require replacement in gasoline powered cars and EVs, with the garages stating that they bring the electric cars in every 5,000 mi (8,000 km), rotate the tires, fill the windshield washer fluid and send them back out again.

Running Costs: Rather than using gasoline, EVs use only electricity for power. The cost of charging the battery depends on the price paid per kWh of electricity - which varies with location. As of November 2012, a Nissan Leaf driving 500 mi (800 km) per week is estimated to cost US$600 per year in charging costs in Illinois, U.S. According to the 2014 Fuel Economy Guide done by U.S Department of Energy, most current EVs consume electricity ranges from $500-$850 US annually.[4]:

Range and Recharging Time: Electric cars often have less maximum range on one charge than cars powered by fossil fuels, and they can take considerable time to recharge. However, they can be charged at home overnight, which fossil fueled cars cannot. The average American drives less than 40 miles (64 km) per day; so the GM EV would have been adequate for the daily driving needs of about 90% of U.S. consumers. However, most vehicles also support much faster charging, where a suitable power supply is available. Therefore for long distance travel, in the US and elsewhere, there has been the installation of DC Fast Charging stations with high-speed charging capability from three-phase industrial outlets so that consumers could recharge the 100-200+ mile battery of their electric vehicle to 80 percent in about 30 minutes. Nevertheless, people can be concerned that they would run out of energy from their battery before reaching their destination, a worry known as range anxiety. Another way to extend the limited range of electric vehicles is by battery swapping. An EV can go to a battery switch station and swap a depleted battery with a fully charged one in a few minutes.

Air Pollution and Carbon Emissions: Electric cars contribute to cleaner air in cities because they produce no harmful pollution at the tailpipe from the onboard source of power, such as particulates (soot), volatile organic compounds, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, ozone, lead, and various oxides of nitrogen. The clean air benefit is usually local because, depending on the source of the electricity used to recharge the batteries, air pollutant emissions are shifted to the location of the generation plants. Charging a vehicle using renewable energy yields very low carbon footprint (only that to produce and install the generation system e.g. wind power).

The Future of EVs

After all considerations, EVs are much more efficient and environmental friendly compared to traditional combustion engine vehicles. With advancements in lithium battery technologies, EVs will be able to charge faster and hold a longer charge. Most importantly, the cost of producing the batteries needed for EVs will continue to decrease. There is enough evidence that many traditional combustion engine type vehicles will be replaced by EVs in the future. Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of the Centre of Automotive Research at the Gelsenkirchen University of Applied Sciences in Germany, said that "by 2025, all passenger cars sold in Europe will be electric or hybrid electric"[5]:

Improved Batteries: There have been several developments which could bring EVs outside their current fields of application, as scooters, golf cars, neighborhood vehicles, in industrial operational yards and indoor operation. First, advances in lithium ion batteries, in large part driven by the consumer electronics industry, allow full-sized, highway-capable EVs to be propelled as far on a single charge as conventional cars go on a single tank of gasoline. Lithium batteries have been made safe, can be recharged in minutes instead of hours, and now last longer than the typical vehicle. The production cost of these lighter, higher-capacity lithium batteries is gradually decreasing as the technology matures and production volumes increase. Rechargeable lithium-air batteries potentially offer increased range over other types and are a current topic of research.

Battery Management and Intermediate Storage: Another improvement is to decouple the electric motor from the battery through electronic control, employing super capacitors to buffer large but short power demands and regenerative braking energy. The development of new cell types combined with intelligent cell management improved both weak points mentioned above. The cell management involves not only monitoring the health of the cells but also a redundant cell configuration (one more cell than needed). With sophisticated switched wiring it is possible to condition one cell while the rest are on duty.


Web 3.0

Progression of The Web [6]

Internet giants, Google, Facebook and Apple, has lead the emergence of Web 3.0. Building on top of the social aspects of Web 2.0, Web 3.0 strives to personalize user experiences. Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana are examples of artificial intelligent personal assistants being developed to enhance the online experience. In the automobile industry context, this technology will enhance an individual's driving experience.[7]

Interconnected vehicle-to-infrastructure communication will change current traffic control methods as automated communication allows for higher accuracy in location tracking and a reduction of congestion. For example, for the Google Street View project to advance to Web 3.0 level, it can connect to private wireless networks in real-time and show 3D views to allow travellers to optimize their routes. As a result of this technology, traffic will be monitored more closely for accurate and instant reports. This will, undoubtedly, increase toll collections and traffic violation fees.


As technology advances, people become increasingly dependent. If self-driving cars become mainstream in the future, there will be few people who will know how to drive a car. In this scenario, if the technology falters, there must be mitigation plans prepared in advance for the appropriate individuals or organizations. This over-dependency on technology can be seen today with over-reliance on Global Positioning Systems (GPS) navigation, which may cause a decrease of critical thinking and mental-mapping abilities. Survival expert, Robert Richardson, has expressed concern on the dependency of the GPS during large scale evacuations in times of disaster, as tens of thousands of people may unintentionally cause a bottleneck by relying on the same navigation tools to escape.[8]

Job Market

Self-driving cars will reduce jobs in the taxi, retail and delivery industry. However, it will also increase jobs in the technical field. It is expected that there will be a higher demand of skilled jobs, while unskilled labour is reduced. In a survey conducted on artificial intelligence and the future of jobs, with a sample size of 1,896 experts, 48% of experts believe that robots and digital agents will displace a significant number of blue and white collar workers, while the remaining 52% believes this advancement will increase the number of jobs available.[9] The arguments for and against this impact is summarized in the following table:

Technology will increase jobs
Technology will decrease jobs
Throughout history, technology has been a job creator—not a job destroyer
Displacement of workers from automation is already happening—and about to get much worse
Advances in technology create new jobs and industries even as they displace some of the older ones
The consequences for income inequality will be profound
There are certain jobs that only humans have the capacity to do
The educational system is doing a poor job of preparing the next generation of workers
The technology will not advance enough in the next decade to substantially impact the job market
The concept of “work” may change significantly in the coming decade
Our social, legal, and regulatory structures will minimize the impact on employment


With operating systems being implemented into vehicles, the driving experience will become much more personalized. For example, restaurant suggestions may appear based on the drivers' previous choices. Personalized marketing advertisement services are already being implemented via Google and Facebook advertisements. This leads to controversies regarding the filter bubble and the ethics of censorship, where every individual's search results differ depending on a pre-existing notion of what information they would be interested in based on historical choices. [10]

Vehicular communication leads to benefits of reduced traffic congestion and accidents. However, privacy is a major trade-off with these conveniences. Imagine law-enforcing authorities and insurance companies having the ability to view a driver's profile, including their license, registration and accident history. This can be expanded further, where other driver's can view another's information, or a driver's location can be easily tracked.

There are various security concerns arising from cyber crimes. With big data, companies perform data mining applications to determine trends and valuable business information. This information can be easily stolen from databases with inadequate security. Recent examples of Apple's iCloud, Gmail and CanadianTire breaches where customers' private information were all stolen.[11]

Other Industries

Auto Industry Ties to Other Industries [12]

Vehicle accidents have been declining throughout the years, through more effective airbags and fewer accidents. This reduction is expected to continue with the development of self-driving cars. Self driving cars are more efficient and effective; the Google self driving car has only been in one car accident since its inception. Overall, this creates a positive outcome for general public safety. However, waitlists for organ replacements have grown longer due to the decrease of automobile accidents as the majority of organs donated come from victims of vehicle related accidents. [13]

Real Estate
The efficiency of self-driving cars decreases traffic congestion, resulting in lower demand for more roads and infrastructure. This could mean more land will be developed for other uses. Government funds used to maintain roads can possibly be allocated to other aspects, resulting in the possibility of maintenance workers being out of jobs.

Retail and Delivery
The retail and delivery agency will revolutionized with self-driving cars, where these jobs will become automated. There are already options available for consumers to order their groceries online and have them delivered to their homes. This significantly reduces the costs of operating business and added value to customers.

With operating systems incorporated in vehicles, there will be more apps developed to enhance travel experience. This opens up another market for mobile applications to expand to car travellers without worry for driver distractions.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars, salt-water powered cars, and many other sources of energies are being designed to fuel cars. This will reduce pollution, demand for gasoline and provide more options for consumers. Oil and gas companies will need to re-structure their business model to compete in this new "clean energy" world.

Smart vehicles will have smartphone capabilities, with operating systems, and will need to connect to the wireless network. This is an opportunity for the telecommunications industry, where vehicles will need internet and mobile service providers.

Future Potential

In 1910, French artist Villemard created a series of postcards predicting that humans will be travelling in flying vehicles and speeding trains by the year 2000.[14] In 1962, The Jetson television show predicted several 21st century technologies that came true, such as video conferencing and nanotechnology.[15] Science fiction has an established precedent of predicting future technologies.

At the current rate of technological advancements, cars and transportation can easily become completely automated, with little-to-no human driver control. This lack of human control have a multitude of positive and negative implications, as demonstrated by numerous science fiction examples. Looking specifically at the Minority Report (2002) and Wall-E (2008), it is clear that this automation allows for maximum efficiency with minimum human effort. However, it is this lack of human effort that should give future generations pause when designing products that supposedly are meant to increase humanity's quality of life and standard of living.

Minority Report: Automated Cars [16]
Wall-E: Automated Transportation System [1]


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