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Riding the waves on the cloud

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on March 20, 2014

The Cloud is set to have a profound, elevating impact in the automotive industry.

If you thought talking cars existed only in science fiction, cloud computing will spring a surprise for you. Thanks to the next level of computing technology, cars will soon talk to each other, to the traffic control system, and even to the mechanic. All on the go and in real time.

Getting smarter

Connected cars or smart cars was one of the many interesting ideas discussed at the IBM Pulse conference on cloud computing held recently in Las Vegas, US. Talking at the meet, Brian Droessler, Vice-President of German auto components maker Continental, said that the future of commuting is all about cloud-enabled automated driving. Continental tied up with IBM’s cloud services to enhance the ‘smart’ functions on its vehicle products. “The cloud will transform how we bring new features and functions to the vehicle,” says Droessler.

This transformation is already happening. Now cars interact with more than one interface and disseminate critical information on the go. With the arrival of mobile applications, this has become easier than ever. According to Droessler, the car will soon join the API economy. API, or application programming interface, roughly interpreted, means how some software interact between each other and with the hardware. In automobiles, several applications will take control of driving, and not only will they control the ride but significantly improve road safety measures.

Experts predict that in future most of the additions to a car will be digital features rather than physical. Continental is working on a concept called ‘electronic horizon’, which enables cars to have awareness of the road ahead. This helps the driver engage in other activities such as reading and answering emails while driving. Obviously, the car will take care of itself.

Current developments

Today, several companies – including Google and Apple – are working on connected vehicles. By 2020, the industry estimates that nearly 90 per cent of vehicles on the road will be wired, while the connected car market will hit $600 billion — making it the single largest market for connected devices and services. As of now, shows an estimate, the market stands at about $3-4 billion. And the battle for taking control of this emerging pie is already on. Both Google and Apple are trying to integrate their smartphone apps with car communications systems.

So, very soon, your humble car will become an extension of your smartphone or vice versa. Cars will become ‘smart devices on wheels’, as IBM qualifies them. These machines will study and decipher loads of Big Data, mostly real-time and will perform a series of critical functions. They will communicate to other cars on the road on weather, traffic and navigation details. If your brakes fail, the car will alert other cars around to slow down, contact the cops to send a support car and a tow truck and, if needed, inform traffic control systems to reroute cars to avoid a traffic jam.

Yes, in India this is going to be a big ask given the conditions of our traffic regulatory systems. But in advanced countries, this is already in the city planner’s head. Your car will be smart enough to help you plan your life, say experts. Sample this. While you’re sipping your coffee in the kitchen, your car will access your home network or cloud, scan your calendar, weather forecasts and real-time traffic updates to plan the best route you should take to work.

Cloud-enabled sensors will also figure out whether critical parts are need tweaking and will automatically book an appointment with your smartphone-wielding mechanic. By 2020 partially-automated vehicles will be in full roll-out, and fully automated vehicles will hit the road by 2025, says Droessler.

It’s just a matter of time before your favourite sci-fi car fantasies become real, thanks to the cloud. But the question is, are markets like India ready for this transformation? It seems it will take some time in this part of the world, but not too long.

According to the Global Cloud Computing Scorecard by Business Software Alliance, India is ranked at 17 out of 24 countries assessed on cloud readiness. According to industry forecasts, the size of the Cloud computing market in India is expected to grow up to $4.5 billion by 2015 at a CAGR of 40 per cent by 2014. India auto companies are also slowly changing gears to the cloud. Some of them, like Maruti Suzuki, rely on the cloud for enhancing distribution, and market experts think very soon, that will move to components and smart driving. And more companies will start enjoying the cloud journey. Like their consumers.

(The writer attended the IBM Pulse 2014 conference on cloud computing in Las Vegas)

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Published on March 20, 2014
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