Most drivers remember when cassettes, hand signals, and printing out directions from Mapquest were part of the driving experience. Designated copilots would take on the tasks like navigation and basic in-route entertainment that their family or friend behind the wheel were too occupied to handle.
Then, mobile communication, Bluetooth, and navigation apps came along. With modern tech, cars offer a new kind of independence through vehicle to vehicle communication. By communicating with each other wirelessly, vehicles now have the power to improve navigation apps, reduce traffic congestion and minimize car accidents, relying on relevant data to improve on these aspects of the driving experience.
Gathering data from cars on individual streets as well as the city as a whole provides the opportunity to improve on existing navigation apps.
Vehicles can collect data that indicates which streets have heavy traffic throughout the day. As such, navigation apps can be more dynamic and plan around areas that have high levels of congestion. Furthermore, if there is an accident or road construction, data can be collected to inform other drivers’ navigation apps about road changes. This would allow the apps to create alternate routes to avoid setbacks and delays.
Some navigation apps such as Waze already collect data from users to advise other drivers which roads to avoid or routes to take. The flaw with this system is that it requires the user to activate the app to collect the data. If few people use the app, then the information may be incomplete or inaccurate. With interconnected cars, massive quantities of data can be collected and therefore used in real time to make more accurate suggestions.
Data from sensors such as GPS, mobile phones and public transport can provide city planners with information on speed and density, which in turn allows them to plan for congested streets and peak hours. Implementing new laws and regulations based on factual data means that there would be less city planning mistakes made, such as a misplaced sign that causes traffic.
Additionally, swarm intelligence is gaining ground in the automotive industry. We are experiencing a change from static to learning maps. The transition can be compared to the shift from paper to electronic static maps. A learning map could be updated in real time when it comes to traffic information, but also for the map itself – down to every stone, every road sign, and every tree.
As navigation apps are improved and traffic is reduced, driver safety also improves. GPS location, the direction of the driver, and even the angle of the steering wheel are all data points that can be collected to make the task of driving even safer. Car companies can use this information to deploy apps that protect the driver and passengers alike.
For example, a weather app warns drivers about driving conditions and gives them tips on how to drive safely. Minimizing driver distraction by detecting when the car is moving and disabling mobile devices is another type of app that could make driving safer.
Down the road, we could even see cars that tell drivers not to pass other vehicles if the conditions are not safe (i.e. another car coming up the lane quickly), informing drivers if there is a car up the road using its emergency brake lights, and helping the driver to see everything in his or her blind spot.
As developers race to engineer solutions which provide a more comfortable driving experience, we will continue to see new features being added to our cars and helping us drive safer or avoid traffic. It's up to auto manufacturers to implement the technology that's being developed to optimize the driving experience like never before.