Connected Vehicles in Smart Cities - The Future of Transportation

Posted by: RideGuru Team Nov 08, 2019
Updated Jan 16, 2020


autonomous vehicles

There are exciting theories about the future of transportation. Transportation technology is an area that has experienced a lot of growth due to the vast research and development conducted by private and public entities around the world. This article examines some of the leading directions in which transportation technology is headed.

Connected Vehicles

Cars on the market today are already very intelligent. Their internal computer connectivity can alert the driver to faulty functionality, the need for maintenance and external hazards, such as an icy road. Self-driving cars add a whole lot of smart functionality to cars. Connected cars use the Internet and onboard sensors to support their operation and maintenance. For example, the real-time information available on the Internet, such as auto recall checks and defects allows connected cars to alert the driver of newly available information that might affect the vehicle. Doing a vin number search can also shed light on a car’s previous owner and accident history. Connected vehicles also deliver better experiences for the driver and passengers in terms of comfort – and they are able to do that with internal sensors. 

While some projections theorize that connected vehicles will increase consumer costs for automobiles, an article published by Mackenzie in 2014 states that the total cost of ownership of vehicles will remain stable for consumers, but that the dramatic increase in vehicle connectivity will increase the value of the global market for connectivity components and services. A more recent article published by the US Department of Transportation states that while connected vehicles will cost more, the projected cost increases are fairly low for 2020: $341 to $350 per vehicle in 2020, and that includes the slightly higher fuel costs that would be needed due to the extra weight from features that deliver connectivity.

Electric Cars and Smart Cities

While car manufacturers have been at work on developing new electric car models for the near future, many electric models from leading auto manufacturers have been on the road for nearly a decade. Brands like Tesla, Toyota, BMW and Toyota (just to name a few) have earned a loyal consumer following with various electric car models. Electric cars are good for the environment, and save drivers money on gas.  Current electricity costs in the US are about one third of the cost of gasoline. More importantly, electric vehicles can greatly reduce carbon emissions and provide cleaner air and less pollution. City planners have considered the factor of the growing popularity of electric cars in the design of cities and neighborhoods. One obvious consideration is the installation of enough charging stations to accommodate drivers of electric vehicles. When this is done in strategic spots, like parking lots and near public transportation, drivers considering switching to electric vehicles can have peace of mind around the switch. Smart cities can offer additional benefits for drivers of electric and / or connected cars, including:


Connecting Transport and Internet of Things (IoT) in a Smart City

IoT strategies in cities and towns include the installation of various sensors, such as GPS, laser scanners, RFID and others. It then connects them to the Internet for information exchange and communications. This can include tracking, monitoring, data collection, intelligent recognition, and other management. One example that is mainstream today is cameras in public places. In some cases, these cameras have provided data needed to solve crimes and enforce traffic violation penalties.

IoT studies are currently being conducted to determine how to best use it in cities with connected transportation. Some directions that are being explored include:


Connecting Vehicles to their Surroundings

As autonomous features are becoming more and more available for vehicles, vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication is on the horizon and is being watched closely as an opportunity to increase safety by allowing vehicles to communicate with one another. Autonomous vehicles without V2V can offer some safety improvements, but without having awareness of other connected vehicles, their chance of getting into an accident is much higher than if they were V2V. Wireless communication that connects vehicles to one another can alert connected vehicles of the presence of other vehicles – including non-car vehicles, like bicycles and mopeds, calling the driver’s attention to other traffic that they might miss in their blind spot or while distracted. Even pedestrians could potentially communicate with connected vehicles with the right technology developments.

Using today’s V2V technology, connected vehicles can communicate with one another anonymously and securely. They do this via Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC). DSRC is not unlike wi-fi: vehicles exchange available data, such as their speed, travel direction, and location.  DSRC offers incredible speeds: around 10 times communications per second that can be transmitted at least 1,000 feet in any direction. These communications are not affected by physical barriers such as heavy snow or fog. Portable devices, including smartphones, can enable bikes and pedestrians to share in the communications. Experts have a lot of hope and optimism for V2V increasing transportation safety - the US Federal government has published estimates that V2V connectivity could prevent or lower the severity of approximately 80 percent of collisions. This ballpark does not include accidents where the driver is impaired.

The essential vision for V2V communications is transforming from roads with independent vehicles sharing space into a smarter, safer and more cohesive traffic system, and that is something city planners and legislators are generally happy to support.


Electric Car Sharing Programs

A great way to feel out an electric or connected car is to explore car sharing services that offer such options. Though programs that offer electric vehicles to short-term rent or share are usually based in a certain city or state, and are not national, they are fairly easy to find in you search your particular area. Volkswagen recently announced launching its electric vehicle WE service in Germany and will follow in North America and Asia in 2020. In the meantime, drivers looking to take advantage can try to rent electric vehicles in cities with a high concentration of charging stations, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.. It is important to note that there is a lot of change and new developments happening with the sustainable car-share businesses in the US, so it’s important to research this frequently if the idea is appealing.

The future is exciting and developments are moving fast. In seeking sustainability and convenience, there are also opportunities to improve the lives of commuters and increase driver and passenger safety, while redefining and improving cities and towns to better accommodate today’s technology-driven world. The business growth and new opportunities are also promising, and can provide new areas of growth to the economy and job market. 


Patrick Peterson is a writer/editor at AutoDetective. Born and raised in the automotive world. He's a passionate writer who crafts exquisite content pieces about everything related to cars and bikes. 

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