“Talking” to Connected Cars: The Future of Transportation and V2X/V2V Technology

How “connected cars” are transforming the way we drive and “talk” to other cars, dealers, manufacturers and government agencies. 

By Don Armstrong, CEO, Motor Vehicle Software Inc. (MVSC)

The term “connected car” seems to be all over the news these days. From CO2 reductions via zero emissions vehicles to a no-accident future with self-driving cars to cybersecurity for preventing “car hackers,” the ever-growing connected car world is literally going warp speed ahead. In fact, driving what is now a virtual “computers on wheels” is changing how we get around right now and in the future for consumers, dealers, manufacturers and even government agencies.

As a pioneer in motor vehicle software technology, I wasn’t surprised at the findings in a recent report by Navigant Research titled Connected Cars: Vehicle-to-X Communications and Supporting Technologies: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts. “One of the key enabling systems for success is the provision of real-time data to vehicles, drivers, and pedestrians through vehicle-to-external communications (V2X) using dedicated short-range communications (DSRC),” says the report.

This DSRC is the key in “connected” and your car is the container or bottle. What happens in between here and 50 or so years from now will probably be nothing short of a spectacular ride into a sustainable transportation future.

Will self-driving cars make accidents a rare occurrence? Will drivers turn into “riders,” who spend their in-car time working or listening to music or even participating in a meditation session complete with black-out windows, low lights and zen music? Perhaps that’s using a little too much imagination, but the possibilities seem wild and wonderful to generations of car drivers and owners. Plus, a connected car world is already helping solve urban traffic congestion and pollution problems.

As part of the new “intelligent transportation infrastructure,” I have been part of overhauling vehicle registration network systems to make owning a car finally fly into today’s digital paperless age. But it hasn’t been easy to bring online systems to every dealership-to-DMV-to-owner encounter.

It’s the same with connected cars. There’s lots to consider as V2X communications tech affects everything from hardware to regulators to security to software to regulators to app developers to digital mobile companies such as mine that intersect the car buying experience between owner, dealers, financial institutions, insurance companies and government entities.

Remember when OnStar was launched in the mid-90s? That was the first time cars were relied on cellular communications to connect vehicles to centralized data center. Called “embedded telematics systems” back then, companies such as OnStar would come to invent and provide new advanced technologies like remote locks, remote diagnostics and stolen vehicle recovery.

Today’s V2X technology is quite different. It’s more of a patchwork system of wireless connectivity along short range-communication (DSRC) exchanges. And now, hardware costs for V2X are minimal (from $70-$200 for each new car depending on capabilities), so says Navigant.

One shortcoming in V2X technology, according to the Navigant report, is it is designed to transmit short messages using only a tiny bit of bandwidth and this limits its capabilities. Still, car manufacturers and its billions of customers are already in love with this new peer-to-peer, ad hoc network because of its low operating costs (except for the occasional security certificates).

Automotive researchers like those at Navigant think it’s going to be quite a long time (and most likely limited to urban centers or dedicated driving lanes) before we have fully autonomous vehicles such as envisioned by Google and Apple.

What we will have between then and now – such as what my company provides with automated digital car title and registration systems – is going to be like a long road trip with troublesome valleys, celebratory peaks, dangerous curves and fast-moving straightaways.

Isn’t it great to think about cars that drive for us and computers that register our cars directly without a stop at the DMV? The connected car era is here now and it will be fascinating to see how the lines of communication from vehicle to vehicle and also vehicle to government/government to vehicle continue to adapt.