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Why Your Car is Your Most Valuable Computer: How Tech is Changing the Commute

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In our tech-driven society, it’s only logical that the cars we use now will soon evolve into smarter, more connected iterations of their current selves. In fact, many car companies are already leading the charge in the next wave of the digital revolution. So where will our vehicles take us next? Here’s a look at the future of Internet-savvy automobiles.

Building Partnerships

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A fully connected car is closer than you think. Companies like Daimler, BMW and Volvo have partnered with Microsoft to offer drivers the ability to get work done during commutes, and that’s not all. Cars have become large traveling personal computers, able to monitor their own performance, gauge fuel efficiency and control the comfort level of the interior – all from voice-activated or built-in automated systems.

While automakers used to focus on amplifying the car’s internal features, nowadays vehicles must be able to connect and communicate with the outside world. The progression of technology has made it so that a driver’s smartphone – connected to the car’s dashboard or computer system – provides behavioral data which makes their trips more personal and practical.

Growth of the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (or IoT) has evolved over the last decade, expanding to include more connected devices than ever before – meaning more data to figure out each user’s individual preferences. According to an IBM study, smart cars of the not-too-distant future will be able to:

  • Talk to other vehicles
  • Self-diagnose needed repairs
  • Set and maintain the internal environment, including temperature
  • Alert drivers to real-time information, such as traffic reports, safety issues, and accident updates

Along with these features, connected cars will be able to adjust entertainment and productivity preferences, allowing drivers to get work done, listen to their favorite album or find the best gas prices without lifting a finger or their eyes from the road. And gone are the days when an unresponsive AI computer misinterpreted your demands. Now, sophisticated voice recognition software (think Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and their friendly cohorts) allows people to say what they want to a computer and actually be understood. Enabling a wide range of actions from hands-free email commands and office reminders to garage door control and home system supervision, voice-controlled co-pilots could be in more cars much sooner than we think.

Keeping Up with Demand

The race to make cars more compatible with the IoT significantly affects our relationship with what was once just a means of transport. As our lives become increasingly connected in other ways automakers are trying to keep up with demand. Consumers used to checking in with everything from their refrigerator to their thermostat from a smartphone now expect the same hands-off approach with their vehicles. In fact in the UK, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant has already made its way into cars on the road. But for all this connection and convenience, one has to wonder – is it safe?  

Security Concerns

As cars shift to automated connectivity, security issues evolve as well. Two top concerns stand out: driver safety and hacking. Drivers might be tempted to let their cars do the actual driving, but self-piloting cars come with risks. It’s critical for drivers to still take control of their vehicles, using all senses while on the road.

Hacking and data security are other concerns. Where there’s a will, there’s a way when it comes to stealing sensitive data and manipulating technology. Virtual criminals will develop ways to hack into a car’s system, potentially stealing information or gaining access to valuable personal data. Auto manufacturers need to implement rigorous safety features to protect their customers and themselves from these threats.

Up Next: Self-driving Cars

With technological innovation driving manufacturing, there’s no limit to what automakers and tech gurus can dream up or accomplish. Once cars become totally connected to the Internet of Things, full automation is the next logical leap. We may not have flying cars anytime soon, but self-driving vehicles are already being tested. Not far into the future, drivers could sit back, relax and let their cars do the heavy lifting for them.

In the years to come, drivers will have better access to valuable information about their cars and the roads they’re traveling, and as a bonus, they’ll enjoy their trips with more customized interfaces. Despite valid security concerns raised with the onslaught of new technology, one thing remains clear: Embracing innovation is the only way forward now that we’re this far down the road.

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