How connectivity is driving a reimagined future for cars



Whether it's Beijing, Frankfurt or Chicago, go to any of the world’s biggest auto shows and it quickly becomes clear that carmakers are going all in to develop vehicles that are smart, intuitive and connected.

"A lot of features available in today’s vehicles were in the realm of science fiction a few years ago,” said Hannes Estl, an engineer and general manager at our company.

The connected cars of today provide a glimpse into the future. Though talking on the phone while driving can be a distraction, for current and future generations of cars, communication in the car isn’t discouraged – it’s advancing. The difference is that the cars are doing the communicating.

Connected cars enable smarter rides
By connecting to the cloud through high-speed cell networks, vehicle communication is opening the door to dramatic improvements in comfort, safety and drivability. Technology is redefining the personal transportation experience as digital connectivity quickly becomes the automotive industry norm. More and more, vehicles will connect to personal electronics, homes and the broad landscape of the Internet of Things.

"The typical car today is more computer than machine," said Hope Bovenzi, a systems engineer for automotive infotainment systems. "There's so much we're putting into these vehicles. So much can now be done to make cars more entertaining and safe."

  
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The digital cockpit will continue to evolve as we move to autonomy. More and more streaming entertainment content will be available and consumable as the vehicle interior changes.

"Imagine on long road trips parents can turn around the front seats to have dinner with their kids and dim the windshield glass so the family can watch a movie as they continue down the road," Hannes said.

Connected autonomy
These features will coincide with 5G mobile network deployment, which will dramatically increase connectivity speed and bandwidth, and car-to-car communications. This will unlock the power of collective coordination for cars, in which a vehicle makes an emergency stop for a fallen tree and relays that information to other vehicles a mile behind it. Or a group of cars relay traffic patterns or deteriorating weather conditions to others in the area so they can reroute. At the same time, we'll also see the slow implementation of smart-city infrastructure, where sensor-embedded light poles monitor and alert drivers when a parking spot opens up or when a bridge is about to open.

"Many of these connected features will make our cars safer, easier to drive, more comfortable and more fuel efficient," Hannes said. "And once you have the technical capability, why would you even want to drive or own your own vehicle? Just push a button in your app and the robo-taxi will be waiting for you."

Smart systems for seamless driving
Big changes are happening, and even bigger ones are coming within a decade. Innovations in connectivity and advanced driver assistance systems will intersect, enabling fully autonomous systems to start penetrating the automobile market. This will unlock new design paradigms that dramatically reconfigure how designers and engineers build cars, and how these machines deliver entertainment and information to their occupants.

Anybody who has been in the market for a new car in last few years will be familiar with the smart systems available today to assist drivers and help cars perceive the world around them. Adaptive cruise control uses the vehicle’s onboard radar, LIDAR or cameras to sense vehicles ahead and automatically adjust its speed to maintain a safe distance. Lane-departure warnings feed information from cameras to processors to alert a driver when the car is drifting out of its lane. Lane-keeping systems make corrective actions to keep the vehicle between the lines. Image processing and computer vision systems already let cars understand traffic signs on the road to automatically adjust speed to legal limits or brake if the driver doesn't see a stop sign. The list goes on.

Though the exact timing is debated, some experts predict that advanced driver-assistance systems will evolve to allow highly and fully autonomous driving – without the need for driver input – within in the next decade. Cars will seamlessly operate within smart cities and drive on highways without the driver's foot on the pedals, hands on the wheel or even eyes on the road.

Common to all of these exciting innovations and a reimagined future for automobiles is the most foundational element – the integrated circuits being developed by our company that make it all possible.

"In biology class, students talk about cells being the building blocks of life," Hope said. "Our integrated circuits are the building blocks of electronics, and more and more of them are being put into cars. So much is changing – it's such a fun time to be in the connected-car world."