What Smart Car Technology Can Do for Nonconnected Vehicles

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By: Becky Lawlor|

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With the average age of cars on the road at a record high of 11.5 years, according to an IHS report, the majority of vehicles out there are still old and disconnected — despite the many advancements in smart car technology. Fortunately, all those “dumb” cars aren’t too old to learn new tricks that will make them a little smarter.

Here’s a look at some of the changes drivers can now make to their old set of wheels and the infrastructure that’s driving smart cars forward.

Same Car, New Intelligence

Cars have become increasingly computerized over the past several decades and now rely heavily on sensors and telematic systems to run and provide diagnostic information. To tap into these sensors and the data they collect, today’s vehicles have an on-board diagnostics (OBD) port. These OBD ports, combined with new software and hardware components, leverage the Internet of Things (IoT), telecommunication, cloud computing networks, car sensors, telematics systems and data analytics to make it simple and inexpensive to upgrade your car’s intelligence and internet connectivity without needing to trade in your ride.

Drivers can now spiff up their old vehicles with a dongle they can insert into the OBD port to provide internet connectivity. This makes it possible to connect to entertainment systems, improve driving habits or routes via apps, use GPS locators to find the car in a crowded parking lot or even communicate with other smart technologies, such as a thermostat in the driver’s home. The best news is that most of these connectivity devices (example: Hum) cost less than a smartwatch and come with free connectivity features or low monthly subscription rates.

Smart Car Technology: The Ultimate Mobile Device

Since the introduction of the touchscreen on mobile devices, consumers have become accustomed to having information and entertainment only a tap away. Screens are now a common feature on new cars’ dashboards, and they help to extend the mobile device experience to the vehicle. In older cars that aren’t yet equipped with a screen, however, there are still ways to bring a screen to the vehicle.

While the entire dashboard could be replaced to add a screen, the least expensive option is to simply use your own smartphone and an app that can provide a distraction-free interface — using voice control to access your music or send and receive texts, for example. These applications will continue to improve as machine learning and artificial intelligence continue to improve voice technology.

The Road Ahead

By 2025, according to an IBM study, cars will be sophisticated enough to self-diagnose repairs, communicate with other vehicles and manage their internal environment, including determining individual entertainment or work productivity preferences. Cognitive computing connected to IoT and big data analytics will play a major role in delivering on these predictions.

However, as the smart car revolution unfolds and vehicles become more connected and automated, IT infrastructure has to adapt, and security remains a concern. Cars on the road today are especially vulnerable. According to VDC Research, new vehicles in 2015 had an average of more than 30 microprocessors, but less than 2 percent of those microprocessors included hardware security features. This situation leaves far too many cars at risk, particularly in a world where more and more driving and roadway communications will be done by computers and computing networks, not humans.

Smart car technology has already traveled a significant distance, but bringing all drivers a secure, connected, automated and intelligent experience is still miles away. But with a dongle and a smartphone, drivers can do a lot to smarten up their cars right now.

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About The Author

Becky Lawlor

Freelance Writer

Becky Lawlor is a freelance technology writer. She develops and writes content on topics such as mobility, cloud services, unified communications, managed services and more.

Articles by Becky Lawlor
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