It’s 5:30 in the afternoon. The sun reflects off the hood of your car so harshly you can barely make out your GPS location on the holographic HUD on your dashboard. That hardly matters – you’re stuck on the FDR, ahead of you a desert of steel and plexiglass, motionless in the heat. Your latest podcast binge, My Favorite Murder, is playing through Spotify on your radio, and the dulcet sounds of a serial killer’s story retold is your only reprieve on this dreadful evening commute.
With every passing moment, hundreds of megabytes of information are coursing through your car. Cellular, WiFi, and radio waves emanate from your two ton hull, connecting with the whole world around you.
We call these connected cars: internet of things enabled cars capable of hosting and communicating with a cellular or WiFi network while on the road. For all the convenience it provides – hands-free dialing, real-time traffic updates, live infotainment – this connectivity also provides the potential to save your life.
Connected cars are the future of driver safety
It’s no secret that driving a car is an inherently dangerous activity. Every year, over 37,000 Americans die on the road, and an additional 2.35 million people are injured in automotive accidents. Car manufacturers work hard to keep drivers safe, both from others on the road and from themselves. Though we’re closer than ever before to achieving fully autonomous driving – which the DoT suggests could reduce traffic fatalities up to 94 percent – accidents will always be unavoidable.
Connected cars can keep their drivers safe in a variety of ways, beyond driving the car autonomously. For starters, their IoT connected sensors gather real-time traffic and crash data, alerting drivers to road hazards, traffic conditions, and the like. These sensors can also detect lane departure by an inattentive driver, signs of fatigue, and monitor blindspots.
In the near future, connected cars will also be able to communicate with one another, and not for motorists to tell each other how bad they are at driving. Connected cars will be able to share relative speeds and destinations to algorithmically determine the best routes with safe following distances and braking patterns. Hello efficiency, goodbye traffic.
Connected cars are the first step to autonomous driving, but there’s still a missing piece in the puzzle. When an emergency does happen, what can all this extra tech do for you?
Is your car smart enough to save your life?
Accidents happen: it’s an inevitability on the road. Luckily, when there’s an emergency connected cars have the ability to contact 9-1-1 through a variety of means. Many modern cars are equipped with bluetooth tethering, and some even have WiFi hotspots enabled. This allows drivers to reliably call 9-1-1 from their cars, assuming they have the ability to do so.
On top of that, services like OnStar have been around for decades, calling 9-1-1 on behalf of users when an accident is detected by telematic systems. OnStar was in fact one of the first features of the proto-connected car, using sat phone technology to reach emergency services – they’ve now served over one billion requests.
However, due to limitations with our nation’s 9-1-1 infrastructure, information from connected cars has to be verbally spoken to 9-1-1. Connected cars collect information on accidents like the number of airbags deployed, speed at time of impact, and even the systems damaged as a result.
Having direct access to this data, in addition to the precise GPS locations, can drastically improve the situational awareness of first responders – and your chances of survival. The issue today is not whether the data exists, but whether 9-1-1 is able to receive it quickly and efficiently.
The data to make a difference
Having access to rich, up-to-date location data is vital to modern emergency response. Tech from companies like RapidSOS can provide immediate, real-time GPS location to emergency responders when a driver calls, even if the driver is in motion.
Integrating that kind of technology into a connected car can take it a step further, enabling the car to contact 9-1-1 (with some driver verification) in the event of an emergency, sending real-time situational data to first responders.
But what happens if you’re a passenger, or taking an Uber home because you didn’t feel like sitting at the wheel through rush hour? Uber lets you call 9-1-1 without leaving the app, so you can rest assured knowing that in the event of an emergency, first responders will have your exact location, the make and model of your car, and even your license plate number. Eventually, connected cars of all types will be able to send this data to 9-1-1, giving first responders more time to prepare for a call, and cutting the time it takes to find it.
Connected cars are one of many technological advancements that are the culmination of years of progress: they combine several interworking systems, from internet-enabled sensors to autonomous driving, to make driving safer and more efficient than ever before.