Connected cars have become big news in recent months, as the vehicles we use every day become increasingly powerful in terms of the technology inside.
However, the automotive industry is currently split between creating self-driving vehicles (like Google’s smart car), or helping improve the driving experience through better connectivity and optional autonomous driving features (such as Audi’s Bobby concept).
Swedish manufacturer Volvo has long been at the forefront of automobile safety, and now it is looking to technology to ensure that driving remains a safe but also enjoyable experience.
“Security and safety are two of the cornerstones in the strategy of Volvo cars,” Klas Bendrick, Volvo CIO, told TechWeekEurope at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona earlier this month.
The typical Volvo car now has over 100 sensors and processors per vehicle, he says, alongside five radar and camera outputs, but Bendrick now says the challenge is to leverage the data being produced from these – both in the vehicle and outside.
Volvo started work on connected cars in early 2000s, but has seen the initiative change from preventing crashes and helping stranded drivers if the car breaks down, towards creating a more immersive experience for the driver.
“We saw very strong developments when smartphones came along, because then all of a sudden the convenience aspect also kicked in,” Bendrick says. “For example, our connected vehicles got a real boost when we provided the opportunity to, for example, remotely start the heater, get their location on a map, or get information on their fuel level…the convenience aspect really boomed the connected car.
“Now when we have connected cars with infotainment, navigation and such, we see the opportunity for taking the next step – that is connected safety.”
As part of this, Volvo showed off at MWC a pilot with a thousand of its XC90 cars (pictured right) which it is launching in Sweden and Norway, both countries plagued by extreme weather conditions, which will use sensors embedded in the vehicles to transmit information about issues in the road surface.
The sensors detect when any extreme acceleration or deceleration occurs, sending this information to Volvo’s own Volvo Cloud network, based on Ericsson’s Multiservice Delivery Platform, which is then able to display a warning to other drivers encountering the same piece of road.
Volvo will also send the information to road authorities and local governments, cutting down on the time normally taken to identify issues that could potentially cause accidents and even cost lives.
Bendrick says that Volvo is ‘disrupting the disruptors’ by implementing schemes such as this, which look to automate the output of what could be invaluable data, putting the company at the forefront of the connected car industry.
“With our connected vehicles and connected customers, we are building on a number of different use cases,” he says, noting the company’s exhibition of connected safety tools for cyclists at the CES show in Las Vegas earlier this year.
“We are finding use cases to drive the connected society.”
Bendrick also highlighted trials Volvo carried out last year delivering online purchases directly to your car, rather than having them left at home, via a single-use digital key which would allow one-off access to your vehicle.
Overall, he sees connected cars as becoming much more central to our everyday lives in the near future as the vehicles become more ‘customer-centric’.
“What is happening in the networked society and the Internet of Things is that people are connecting devices to benefit, not just for the sake of connecting,” he says. “Taking the connectivity to put the customer in the centre and addressing everyday challenges – that is what will make the technology accepted.”
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