Everybody knows that in 2017, technological advancements are changing the way we do almost everything in North America. The Internet of Things, for example, is turning everything into a data-centric machine. From the thermostats in our homes that learn our temperature preferences to the concrete in the bridges we cross to get to work every day that warn engineers of any structural issues before they become a problem, everything is becoming more connected. This is especially true of the auto industry, which shows us year in and year out that there are more technological features we can be fitting into our daily driving experience.
For some, these changes are as natural as the weather, but for others it takes some getting used to. Cars and digital technology have been connected for years — after all, Bluetooth and USB connectivity is now ubiquitous and satellite radio is no new development. More abstractly, the Internet has been helping connect cars and drivers for ages. Someone who wanted to find a used Nissan Juke online could simply hop on any number of auto-trader sites or classified advertisement websites to track down potential sellers. But the intense fast-forward to the Internet of Things is a far more considerable leap — and it may take some getting used to.
In Windsor, Ontario, Fiat Chrysler is embracing the future of automotive design and are gearing up to build 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans — all part of Google’s ambitious vehicle development project. Before you get overly excited, these cars aren’t meant for you. Google won’t be offering any of the self-driving minivans to the public — at least not right away, as they first want to test the technology’s reliability, readiness and safety. If you’re wondering why tech giant Google chose the Pacifica as it’s test brand, it actually makes a lot of sense; after all, the minivan’s size will amply fit the array of censors and wiring that self-driving vehicles require, and the Pacifica’s height allows for the best possible vantage for the sensors.
But even though your car might not be driving you around in 2017, there is still a litany of driver-assist tech that will being you yet another step closer to the future. Today’s cars come jam-packed with automated safety features; sensors activate when there’s a car in your blind spot, adaptive cruise control technology that calculates the distance between you and the car in front of you and adjusts accordingly, and a bevvy of other features large and small.
With IoT developments, cars are increasingly becoming hubs of data. In both Canada and the US, there are rumours that the respective Departments of Transportation for both countries are proposing rules requiring that all new vehicles on the road be able to “share” digital information by 2020. Regulators as well as automakers are obviously keen to the potential for IoT connectedness to reduce collisions and fatalities.
In this spirit, Ford, Toyota and a host of other automakers banned together recently to launch a common infotainment console that connects to Apple iOS and Google Android operating systems. This allows customers instant connection to apps and allows them to integrate their cars with the other gadgets that power their lives. Ford announced that some of its cars will utilize the Amazon Echo tech through the virtual assistant Alexa, allowing voice activation to become a standard cornerstone of the driving experience.
Of course, it also allows for the automakers to see new revenue streams as they allow the app developers more immediate access to a traditionally “hands-free” demographic. This arrival of big data by the dashboard light has reason to give many consumers pause. From privacy and security concerns to the general self-commodification of the app-driven age, total online connectivity is not for everyone.
You may be excited or trepidacious about the new wave of incoming auto tech, but whatever your predilections, if driving is at all part of your daily or monthly routine, things are going to be shaking up in 2017 and beyond.
Michael Sanduso lives in Toronto, Canada. He is a freelance writer and editor, tech geek, and stay at home father.