The world is standing on the cusp of the connected vehicle revolution. While self-driving cars may not yet be ubiquitous, a host of recent developments suggest that in coming years we will look at human-driven cars with the same type of nostalgia we currently reserve for rotary phones.
Connected cars are laying the technological groundwork for a time when cars could be fully autonomous. Already cities from Pittsburgh to Singapore have begun experimenting with driverless taxi and rideshare services, and Tesla announced that all of its new cars will be equipped with the hardware required for fully autonomous driving. In preparation for the arrival of driverless cars, the US Department of Transportation has even begun issuing guidelines for how autonomous vehicles should operate.
However, for the average consumer the promise of driverless cars may seem to be just out of reach. After all, even early-adopting cities like Pittsburgh require a trained engineer to be present in autonomous vehicles when they are on public roads, and Tesla’s vehicles will still need software validation and regulatory approval before they can go fully driverless. But if you know where to look, you can see the crucial building blocks of the connected future all around us.
Take for example ExxonMobil’s Speedpass+ app, which made a debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. The app lets customers pay for gas or a car wash directly from their smartphones. With the upgrade slated for release early this year, drivers will be integrated into Ford’s SYNC3 Connectivity System. As well as providing low-fuel alerts and GPS-derived directions to the nearest Exxon or Mobil gas station, it will also let drivers pay for their fill-up using voice commands from within their vehicle.
“What we heard from consumers is that they wanted to know, for example, how much fuel they had in their car before they entered the vehicle. They also wanted their car to automatically tell them the location of gasoline stations if they needed fuel. Basically, they wanted to simplify their fueling experience,” explains ExxonMobil’s Will Chun, who helped develop the app.
While advances like the Speedpass+ app might seem like little more than time-saving conveniences in an increasingly busy world, they are actually part of the crest of the connected vehicle wave.
“There are terabytes of data coming off a single vehicle every day,” says Vanessa Surber with ExxonMobil IT. “So the real question is, what are we going to do with that data?”
The plan at ExxonMobil is to use that data to develop new technologies that, for now anyway, improve the driver’s experience and knowledge of their car. However, not too long from now, this data will likely be a major part of our autonomous vehicle future.