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"Forward View" Mirror - Connected Vehicles

Being a car enthusiast I am thrilled to be to be working on a connected vehicles technology initiative that we are executing within our Manufacturing vertical at Infosys. I've grown up dreaming of various possibilities of what my car should be able to do - this includes an insane desire of being able to communicate with cars (or rather drivers) around me on matters of driving ethics (stop honking!), rules (no lane cutting!), sharing information on great music in a traffic jam (cool down and look up FM 98.3!) and also appreciating their (rare) kindness (thanks for giving me way!). While it might take some more time for my fantasies to materialize but the speed at which the connected vehicles technology is evolving, vehicles can actually start talking to other vehicles and take care of most functions of driving.

A colleague and I were discussing on what the future of vehicles could look like and we let imagination run loose to see the following in our crystal ball.

Driverless Vehicles
This one is a no-brainer and everyone is talking about this. Google has already successfully tested various prototypes on different kinds of streets and in different traffic situations. A lot of car OEMs have started adopting sense and respond technology innovations that allow them to speed up on this path. It might take some more time before driverless vehicles are fully and commercially mainstream the way Google has envisioned it, but we will start to see it getting enabled in subtle ways already and gradually move towards being completely autonomous. To begin with, the adoption may even be higher and faster in the industrial automation scenarios.

If vehicles could remember its user's preferences and automatically adapt themselves to their users, it would do wonders to the customer experience. We already have electronic positioning of seats, height adjustment, steering wheel positioning etc where multiple positions can be stored and adjusted by the users. Soon, the vehicle would be able to do this itself by recognizing its user. In addition, this may not be restricted to driver comforts but also aspects like color of the interiors, music playlists, navigation guides based on destinations and points of interests, payment preferences for concierge services, speed limits or prescribed driving patterns, types of alerts activated ... and the list goes on. If my car could do this, I wouldn't need to spend the first 5 minutes in my car just readjusting everything to my needs!

Other, even cooler prospects are of digital dashboards. If I can chose how my cars dashboard looks like, be able to personalize it, be able to change it frequently and be able to select from a library of cool templates, wouldn't it be awesome? I recently installed the much awaited iOS7 on my iPhone and it has completely changed its look and how I interact with it. What if, I could do this with my car's dashboard with a simple over the air (OTA) upgrade? A move in this direction has already started and conversations with a few tier 1 suppliers are already hinting on unlimited opportunities.

Now, if the vehicle provides complete flexibility for customizing, configuring and personalization, do I need to purchase one? Could I share it with a group and still feel it to be my own if it could automatically adapt itself to my preferences? If I combine it with the driverless scenario, my car that currently stands in the parking lot for a major part of the day, whilst I am sitting in office, could actually put itself to good use. Is there a possible new business model emerging? Something that elevates the current rental and taxi services into a completely new sphere? Just image the benefits to infrastructure, environment and natural resources as well.

Digital & Social
This is where the fun starts, if it hasn't already been pretty amazing so far! My car becoming my Facebook wall, my Twitter handle, my Pandora box, my waitress at the McDonald's drive-in. What if my car can show my status? It helps people understand my needs/state of mind better. What if my car can place my order at McDonalds and pay for it as I simply grab my package and munch on it? What if the context of my digital space at home can get carried forward to my car such that my transition is seamless?

Some of this adds fodder to the debate on driver distraction when driving, and needs to be coupled with very strong principles of non-intrusive Human Machine Interface (HMI) and augmented reality. Nonetheless, there are unimaginable opportunities.

I'm sure the digital revolution and evolution of M2M (machine to machine) communication will eventually make every of my "what-ifs" true very soon. How I utilize my time and enjoy my drive while my car does all the work is something I still need to think. For now though, I make do with rolling down the window and waving a thank you to the car behind for giving me way.

The future surely and soundly awaits us to get there! Are we ready for the ride? Please write to me on your thoughts on the future of connected vehicles.

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