Increased IoT in the Automotive Industry Will Lead to Driverless Cars

By Special Guest
Megan Ray Nichols, STEM Writer & Blogger
December 12, 2018

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is becoming more common in our daily lives. From smart fridges that can remind you when you're out of something to smart garage door openers that allow you to open and close your door remotely, networked devices show up nearly everywhere. Even the accessories in your car — from the onboard Wi-Fi to the entertainment center that can tell you where to go while you're on the road — are considered part of the Internet of Things.

As more IoT devices are being introduced in the automotive industry, it's possible that it could, in the end, lead to the adoption of fully driverless cars.

Levels of Automation

First, let's take a closer look at the levels of automation and what it takes to make a driverless car. Automation is separated into six levels from 0 to 5:

  • Level 0: Level 0 automation is a car with no automation. The vehicle you have in your driveway is probably Level 0. It might have some driver assistance technology like cruise control and rear-view cameras, but all driving and decisions are in the hands of the driver.
  • Level 1: Level 1 takes that driver assistance technology to a higher level, including things like technology that helps you stay in your lane and adaptive cruise control. If you've bought a new car within the last year or two, you may have a Level 1 vehicle.
  • Level 2: Level 2 is partial automation, like the AutoPilot that you'd find in a Tesla. These cars can drive themselves under limited conditions but still require the driver to monitor the situation and intervene if necessary.
  • Level 3: Level 3 is considered conditional automation. Under most circumstances, these cars can drive themselves but may require the driver to take over. The only vehicle that has level 3 automation right now is the Audi A8.
  • Levels 4 and 5: Levels 4 and 5 don't exist yet. A car with level four automation can drive itself in almost any circumstances, but will still have a steering wheel and pedals to allow the driver to take over if necessary. Level 5 automation will likely eliminate the steering wheel and be able to drive itself without the need for driver intervention.

Competition in the Automotive Industry
It seems like everyone is trying to create a self-driving car these days. Tesla has an auto-pilot feature that can be used in a variety of different settings. Ride-sharing service Uber is working to develop a fleet of self-driving taxis. With everyone in the race, it remains to be seen who will come in first place and create the world's first fully self-driving car — and the competition is fierce.

How will the Internet of Things give one or more of these manufacturers an edge and help them become the first to create a mass-marketable self-driving vehicle?

IoT and Driverless Cars
The core of the Internet of Things is connectivity. IoT devices are connected to one another and able to exchange information instantly. Driverless cars will need to be connected to ensure they can navigate the world safely. Things like wireless connectivity, proximity sensors and rain sensors will be necessary to let these vehicles adapt to changing road conditions.

Just take a look at antennas. Even the oldest cars on the road have one antenna that can receive AM and FM radio signals. Newer cars have ones that capture and transmit wireless and cellular signals, as well. For driverless cars, this IoT technology will need to take this connectivity to the next level, allowing the vehicles to connect remotely to the update servers and one another on the road. In addition to keeping the software in the cars updated, this inter-vehicle communication will improve traffic congestion. If enough of these cars are on the road, it could even eliminate the need for traffic signals.

The most critical factor involved with IoT and self-driving cars is safety, and that is proving to be the biggest challenge for many car manufacturers. The introduction of the Internet of Things into the world of self-driving vehicles may hit the accelerator on the race to being the first company to create self-driving cars.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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