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August 18, 2014

Is There A Driveable In Your Future?

Posted by Vikram Meghal (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:12 PM

Driver Awareness Research Vehicle (DAR-V) | Toyota [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpW7KH2PJ38]

A few weeks ago, Alan Mulally retired after a stellar run as chief executive officer of the Ford Motor Company. I would imagine many CEOs who step down from such a hectic job might have golf or other forms of recreation on their minds.

Not Mulally. One of the first things he did after retiring from Ford was to join the board of directors at Google. On the surface that might not seem like an earth shattering move. Some former CEOs like it best when they're still active with other companies as directors. But his particular choice of a board was what caught my eye. Google, you might know, is intent on creating and taking to market its own driveable computer platform.

Google wasn't even associated with the automobile industry five years ago. Yet today companies such as Google and Apple have platforms for cars and one is testing its own set of wheels. Plus Google just announced Android for car just last week at its annual developers conference. These are important milestones because it's getting to the point where automakers can't even keep up with the pace of innovation in their own ecosystem!

True, it's going to be up to Tier 1 auto suppliers as well as computer enterprises to define the aftermarket. There's already a terrific automatic device that plugs into the car's OBD port and provides an app that tells everything about a driver's behavior and related analytics. It retails for about $100. But it also helps having the recently retired CEO of one of Detroit's Big Three on your board of directors. Mulally recently blogged about his new position on the Google Web site: "I look forward to working together with the Google board and management team to continue to deliver their compelling vision," he wrote.

It's clear that a good part of that "compelling vision" involves the driverless car. It's going to happen someday -- sooner than you might think. The connected car is in some ways is the basic ingredient to get us to a driverless car. The elements required for driverless automobiles are a combination of short- and long-range connectivity. The ability to sense what is around you (stop signs, parking signs) from your car's perspective. Then there's the dedicated short-range communications protocol comprised of radars and sensors.

The processing of all that data has to be real-time because driving requires split-second decisions. For example, as it stands now, data from a car conceivably travels to a cloud. Then the cloud must shoot back newly analyzed information telling the car to activate the brake pedal to avoid hitting a pedestrian. The time it took for all that data to travel back and forth would mean bad news for that pedestrian. The processing of the data needs to happen within the car for split-second, driverless maneuvers. The cloud will still be used, but for things like distance traveled and gas mileage. All this connectivity has gotten us thinking about the changing nature of the automobile and how it affects the safety of drivers and passengers. At Infosys, we figure that the same technology that makes a car a flashy Cineplex on four wheels (everything but a popcorn machine!) can be used to better protect its inhabitants. Enter Toyota's DAR-V, or Driver Awareness Research Vehicle, a concept that the world's biggest carmaker is taking to auto shows and receiving rave reviews from the press and consumers alike.

Making a connected car as safe as possible requires that we innovate with the Internet of Things (IoT) in mind. The connected car as an integral part of the IoT is an essential first step to creating an entirely new paradigm in the not-too-distant future: the driverless car. But for that to happen, safety technology that keeps drivers safe must take center stage. That's one reason why the Toyota DAR-V is so promising. Its gesture-controlled dashboard is designed to keep drivers from looking at and touching all those potentially distracting infotainment functionalities that are de rigueur for today's passengers. Perhaps the neatest feature of the DAR-V is where driveable meets wearable. Using the Pebble smartwatch that's integrated into the Android-enabled dashboard, a driver can start and stop the car, unlock doors and trunk, turn on headlamps, and even initiate a panic mode in the case of a fender-bender.

I would gather that the past couple weeks have been as important to the continuing development of the automobile as any other in the past century. A former head of Ford is working with Google. And right here at Infosys we're partnering with a host of technology and automotive firms to make the move from the connected car to the driverless car that much quicker.

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