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Maciej Szymczuk
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Today, it takes over 100 million lines of code to program a single passenger car.

But this isn’t news. Innovations like this started 60 years ago.

General Motors, even back in the day, rode at the forefront of vehicular innovations, spearheading automotive R&D. Their idea preceded satellites and wireless communications, marking the first step towards the ‘connected car’.

Culture of Innovation

With the onset of connectivity featuring throughout our daily lives and business processes – this culture of innovation has led to the automotive industry becoming the largest by-far beneficiary of the Internet of Things. All aspects of the supply and value chain make use of the IoT, from In-Built Product Features to Retail, to the very Manufacturing process.

By embracing this technology, automakers can differentiate between their products; offering newfound comforts, as well as navigating burgeoning industry challenges. Fuel economy, environmental awareness, vehicle safety and efficiency, and autonomous vehicles are some of the leading problems facing the industry today.

In this article, I will take you through leading IoT initiatives and products in today’s vehicles, dubbed ‘connected cars.’ With these insights, you can understand the IoT in the vehicular context, kinds of devices used, and its associated programming languages.

What Trends Led Up to This?

iot automotive trends

The idea behind turn-by-turn navigation, road safety alerts, and roadside assistance began in 1966. General Motors’ Driver Aid, Information and Routing, or DAIR, was the world’s first in-car telematics system.

Driver Aid Information and Routing DAIR Console
Driver Aid, Information and Routing (DAIR) Console, 1966. Predecessor to GPS. Credit; GM Heritage Center

The punch card-based mechanism relied on radio relay stations, and a network of magnetic sensors ‘buried’ alongside roads. Ultimately, for the tech to work, a financially prohibitive number of sensors would need deployment, due to a lack of feasibility at the time. The concept resurfaced in 1996, with the launch of OnStar, a roadside assistance programme using telephone and satellite technology.

Punch card, used to provide navigation under DAIR system, 1966. Credit: GM Heritage Center

As mobile and internet infrastructure reached new levels, the quality of amenities followed suit, proving drivers and passengers with unprecedented levels of comfort and safety, with online diagnostics in 2001.

Newest Technologies of Today

The following is a selection of presently-available technologies found within vehicles and dealerships.

In-Car IoT Systems

Smart Device Link (SDL), Livio

By connecting vehicle infotainment systems with APPs, the open-source project aims to unify the programming environment and standardise the broad range of software interfaces present in vehicles. The SDL ecosystem intends to provide a framework from which software developers can apply new applications for the cars of tomorrow. This ecosystem is freely available on GitHub.

sdl ecosystem

Several of today’s vehicle brands are members of the SmartDeviceLink Consortium, a community of OEMs, Suppliers, and App Developers with interests in spearheading SDL integration. Currently, Ford, Mazda, Subaru, Suzuki, and Toyota are leaders in this regard. A similar open digital ecosystem is in development, namely ‘We’, by Volkswagen Group.

IBM Watson – IoT-Integration in Vehicles

IoT Integration in Vehicles

According to IBM, the amount of IoT Technology present within our vehicles comprises 40% of all modern on-board electronics.

‘Connected’ vehicles on our roads now enjoy unprecedented intelligence and spatial awareness, paving the way for enhanced adaptive cruise control, autonomous mechanisms ensuring the car remains in the driving lane, as well as navigation ‘blind-spot’ recognition.

Direct feedback also provides crucial data and information to relevant parties. Emergency response teams, to onsite mechanics, can request access to desired information. Other implications from this technology include the sharing of data between authorised users, as well as over-the-air updates and transmissions.

Onboard sensors are the means of providing mechanics and other permitted users insights into vehicle statistics. They would measure against KPIs, and historical usage patterns before undergoing real-time analytics. Ultimately, deviations from this benchmark data would trigger alerts, providing early insight into forthcoming malfunctions.

LoJack Stolen Vehicle Recovery System

LoJack Stolen Vehicle Recovery System

Using a concealed IoT-enabled low-frequency beacon hidden inside users’ vehicles, this US-based firm provides law enforcement with a vehicle’s location in the event of auto theft. Police equipped with receiver devices can detect the ensuing emergency signals from within a 5-7km radius.

This is made possible using a LoRa broadband signal modulation with spectrum spreading. Due to this property, LoJack signals can penetrate dense materials or environments such as concrete, or heavily wooded areas.

As a result of this tech, LoJack claims that its technology has resulted in a 90% recovery rate for stolen vehicles using its technology. While this technology exists since its patenting in 1979; the current offerings consist of connected-car product extensions. LoJack SureDrive offers crash notifications, speed alerts, and unauthorised movement warnings. LoJack LotSmart, an inventory management solution, allows for monitoring, location, and operational status.

Auto Dealerships & Vendors

Leverege – Car Dealership Insights

Leverege Car Dealership Insights

This software, designed for enterprise clients, provides real-time information to auto dealerships, and auto fleet managers.

Through the connected car, users can take advantage of real-time vehicle tracking, analytics, consumer behaviour insights, telematics, as well as diagnostics of moving vehicles. Insights are accessed online, through a personalised dashboard and mapping function.

As does LoJack, this solution uses onboard sensors. It, however, does not advertise concealment as a primary selling point for its technology. On the other hand, the levels of features, and comprehensive insights of the dashboard provide a broad scope of complexity of data collected and presented to the user.

Zebra Technologies – Jaguar Land Rover

Zebra Technologies Jaguar Land Rover

Order-to-cash systems optimisation awards Jaguar Land Rover with more control over their inventories. By having the information necessary for prompt delivery of new vehicles, the company reduces vehicle dwell time, with improved customer service.

Through 130 wireless IoT sensors, the company can track vehicles, recorded with the exact time of their passing of specific locations. Furthermore, this technology uses ethernet, RFID, as well as satellite uplink.

By enabling such tech, the company enjoys complete order-to-cash system optimisation.

Programming Guidelines in Automotive, and IoT

Programming Guidelines in Automotive and IoT

The internet of things can associate with multiple programming languages, namely C, Java, and Python. Within the auto industry itself, however, there is a growing importance for specific variations developed to suit the needs of the sector. By understanding the kinds of programming languages used in the various applicable technologies, you can be sure as to the types of expertise you will need.

In short, the most common programming language used for vehicular software is the C language. This is best for low-level writing code and is by far most dominant. Within the scope of vehicle software programming, are two programming guidelines for the C programming language.

  • MISRA C & MISRA C++ — The Motor Industry Software Reliability Association software development guideline aims to ensure code safety, security, portability, as well as reliability within embedded systems such as those programmed in ISO C, C90, or C99.
  • AUTOSAR C++ — The Automotive Open System Architecture is a partnership of automotive software developers, to create standardised software frameworks for automotive Electronic Control Units. The goals and objectives are marked, similar to MISRA C, albeit with some emphasis on deployment scalability.

What Kinds of IoT Technologies Can We Expect?

BMW

BMW IoT tech

The German automaker is among many marketing itself as ‘at the forefront’ of IoT implementation. Its efforts consist of a partnership with Microsoft to generate new frameworks for the connected car.

An upcoming feature in the 2020 models will be remote parking. Through a network of in-car sensors, select models will perform low-risk manoeuvres autonomously via a smartphone app, such as parking in physically restrictive spaces, without requiring the presence of a sitting driver.

Additionally, the automaker is implementing an industry-wide ‘Traffic Jam Mode’. This semi-autonomous function enables car acceleration, braking, and remaining within the driving lane independently. The function is restricted to low-speed, minimal change scenarios, such as in traffic jams. As an additional constraint, the mode requires the presence of a person in the driver’s seat.

Audi

Audi IoT

Living up to its (German) slogan, “Advancement through Technology” – Audi is developing a traffic light-integrated automobile. The vehicle will synchronise with modern traffic management systems, igniting the engine, and automatically activating braking systems, according to the displayed traffic light. In the near future, vehicles will develop autonomous characteristics and are expected to link with city, and private parking operators, in navigating, and parking in available spaces.

The project has significant potential, with initial functionalities such as speed optimisation, lights-to-engine synchronisation, as well as a standard interface linking vehicles to localised traffic management systems. With the onset of 5G technology, vehicles’ computing horsepower jumped from 8,000 dmips, in 2014, to 20,000 in the following year.

Today, computing power for a comparable line of Daimler-Benz vehicle models reach computing power levels of 59,300 dmips. The predicted computing power required to achieve full vehicle autonomy approaches 1,000,000 demips.

Toyota

Toyota IoT tech

Connected vehicles are poised to become the new standard, starting its Crown, and Corolla Sport models. These cars, equipped with onboard Data Communication Modules, will be linked with Control Area Networks, providing digital support through its in-car operating system, the Mobility Service Platform.

The catalogue of features includes a wide array of digital solutions, with popular features such as parking assistance, systematic diagnostic reports, natural speech recognition, as well as instant connectivity with Concierge services. In the event of a traffic accident, the HELPNET function offers emergency calling, upon deployment of the car’s airbags. Data then becomes assessed by an assistant who attempts to contact the driver. In the event of a lack of driver response, emergency services become promptly notified.

DCM also enables intelligent insurance premium calculation. Driving behaviour, based on driving data, will contribute to an updated driver score that will be used to determine discounts on insurance payments.

An Ever-Connected Future

An Ever-Connected Future

IoT enables complete connectivity and integration with systems designed to facilitate and protect drivers, passengers, and citizens at-large. Through the Internet of Things, we can now unlock lucrative app development opportunities, adding unprecedented value to the driving experience.

Cost optimisation is one of the first prospective features. The potentials in this aspect range from insurance premium reductions, to lower instances of accident-related pay-outs. Through relevant and targeted products, all stakeholders within the value chain stand to attain optimisations, as a result of IoT-enabling.

Maintenance processes will experience an upgrade as well, as vehicle checks will require minimal physical intervention by a mechanic. From what was once the norm to request a mechanic to sit inside of a vehicle to run diagnostics, technicians can now opt for remote connectivity.

As vehicles also take brave steps towards autonomy, major automakers are integrating some of the latest car models with its immediate environment, and relevant digital infrastructure. The results are cost-effective, safer, and holistically beneficial connected driving experiences.

Cars historically always carried digital attributes. This time, these attributes sit in the driver’s seat.

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Regional Director - USA

Entrepreneur, front-end developer, technology enthusiast. A leader who is always pushing himself beyond limits. Firmly believes in the strength of teamwork, but has the ability to work independently. Ambitious with a creative and analytical mind that always guides him to find the most optimal solution for finishing tasks on time.

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