One of the main reasons behind the push for greater vehicle connectivity and automation is for improving vehicle safety by reducing the chances for driver error. The U.S. government is hoping to aid the effort with a regulatory framework aimed at speeding up related technology deployment. In May, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will accelerate the public time table for its proposal to require vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication devices in new vehicles.
The hope is that the initiative will help to offset some of the challenges facing the U.S transportation system over the next few decades including a rapidly growing population, demographic and migratory shifts in rural and urban areas, and innovations in vehicle automation.
Greater degrees of automation have implications for the automotive human-machine interface (HMI). HMIs will undergo significant changes to make it simple to switch between driving and work/entertainment modes. In semi-autonomous vehicles, systems will have to determine when and how to alert drivers. For full autonomy, the HMI may warn people of automated braking or steering so they aren’t startled. In the complex world of automotive electronics, getting all these pieces to work together will take a lot of cooperation throughout the supply chain.
As cars become more connected and automated, cyber security concerns are rising. Industry developers are now deploying encryption, standards, and other techniques in their battles to ensure that vehicle controls are not accessed by unauthorized people.
Increasing connectivity and automation does come with its risks, especially regarding consumer acceptance and then enthusiasm for the new technologies.
Semi-autonomous features such as adaptive cruise control (ACC) and traffic jam assist (TJA) represent early real-world tests for HMIs. According to an evaluation of implementations in 2015 model year vehicles by the Automotive Consumer Insights (ACI) group at Strategy Analytics, current ACC and TJA offerings lack refined HMIs. The challenge is how to convey control and status information on a number of different subsystems in an immediately clear and meaningful way to users.
Another recent report from the ACI group at Strategy Analytics found that consumers in the U.S., Western Europe, and China were interested in in-vehicle connectivity and connected services, but that interest in some popular payment models for connectivity has fallen in the past year.
“Most consumers remain unwilling to pay for in-vehicle connectivity using the monthly payment models that OEMs have tended to favor,” said report author Derek Viita.
Still more engineering and development work is needed in the connected and automated-vehicle spaces, but convincing a skeptical public on the merits of the new technologies probably might be the greatest hurdle for the industry.
Originally published as “Automation and Connectivity Challenges” in Automotive Engineering Magazine, one of SAE’s award-winning publications, on July 2015, as an editorial by Kevin Jost, Editorial Director, SAE International.