Techies have dreamed of the day when their cars would be as advanced as their personal computing and smartphone devices. Daily use of technology has shifted beyond being the norm to being a necessity. It’s evolved into a digital lifestyle that has extended into vehicular use.
Tesla set the benchmark for what the connected car could be with the launch of the Model S in 2012. It is an amazing, all-electric vehicle with outstanding performance, utility, and good looks. It also incorporates internet technology creating a driving experience like never before. A Tesla Model S or Model X provides drivers with the ‘potential’ to carry their digital lifestyle over into the vehicle.
EVE is following the evolving connected car industry and its future possibilities closely. We are looking at:
- How next generation vehicles will incorporate our digital lifestyles
- What the cyber security implications are
- How our cities' infrastructure may evolve in response
- How autonomous vehicles will change our society
What makes a car 'connected'?
The connected car industry is rapidly evolving. At the moment, there really isn’t a clear, universal definition of a ‘connected car.’
Technological innovation is happening so quickly, there seems to be no limit on what it could be. Some automotive manufacturers are selling 'connected cars' that are simply connected to the internet on their own cellular connection. But, internet enabled features are limited. While calling this type of car 'connected' may be technically accurate, a connected car needs to be more than just a WiFi hotspot.
At its most basic level, a connected car should have the following attributes:
- It must be connected to the internet at all times.
- It must be able to function as a participant in our digital lifestyle, similar to an internet of things (IoT) or smart home device.
- It must allow the user to interact with their digital lifestyle in a functional and usable way.
How automakers are trying to build the connected car
Connected car technology is currently being implemented using one of a few emerging approaches:
The first is simply to project smartphone apps onto a screen in the dashboard. This solution works by running the app on your smartphone but displaying the interface on your vehicle dashboard. The app cannot function without the smartphone and typically has limited or no access to vehicle information.
While projected apps can work for things like text messaging and streaming audio apps, they don’t work without the presence of the smartphone and therefore limit the vehicle’s ability to be a full participant in the Internet of Things. Additionally, these apps are generally not designed well for use in a vehicle.
The second is to have embedded apps, apps that run in the vehicle itself. This solution works by having apps installed or running in the vehicle, similar to tablet or smartphone apps. The advantage is that the apps run independently of a smartphone, can securely access vehicle data, and, in special cases, can even perform vehicle functions remotely, such as closing the sunroof.
These advantages mean that the vehicle has the potential to be a full participant in the Internet of Things. Additionally, these apps are designed specifically for in-vehicle use, with display and user interfaces (ie. buttons, colours, text size, etc.) optimized for in-car use and safety.
A third approach worth considering is a hybrid of these two, where the in-vehicle experience can function independently from a smartphone, but can also incorporate data from and interact with a smartphone. This would allow functionality such as text messaging and email to work off the smartphone, while embedded apps could perform more advanced, vehicle specific and independent functionality.
A hybrid solution also maintains a unified interface experience that is appropriate to in-vehicle use and look like it was designed for the specific vehicle — as opposed to an iPad stapled to the dashboard.
Your Tesla has even more potential
Because of its independent internet connectivity, the Tesla Model S and X offer opportunities to control the vehicle from other internet connected devices.
Tesla offers a smartphone app that allows you to control some of the vehicle functions such as charging, air conditioning, and now even parking and summon (on vehicles with Autopilot). Tesla vehicles receive regular software updates over the air, adding and improving functionality over time. In-vehicle software includes Internet radio, Google Maps (with navigation), and limited integration with your personal calendar that will display your next couple of appointments.
Although Tesla hasn’t released an SDK or third party app development, and new Tesla-developed apps have been limited, Tesla did include a Web browser as a key feature to their large centre console dash. That web browser has opened up a host of possibilities for connected car features and interface development.
This web browser was the inspiration for my team at Evolved Vehicle Environments to create EVE for Tesla, a growing connected car platform that already incorporates many of the features you might expect in a connected car.
EVE for Tesla for the Model S and Model X
Finally, you can have access to your calendar, email, social media, news, and more in your car – provided that car is a Tesla!
With EVEConnect, a feature available to paid members, your Tesla has officially become a full participant in the Internet of Things. It can receive messages, trigger events, and even talk to your home.
With EVE for Tesla IFTTT channel, you can connect your Tesla to over 300 products and services.
The exciting things is, this is just the beginning of what a connected car can do.