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Conti’s Cloud-to-Car Navigation: You Lost Me

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The supplier envisions connected vehicles carrying on never-ending digital conversations with IBM’s computer servers in Dallas about more than just the weather. Forgive my inability to process the vast implications.

So just how intertwined will connected cars be in the future?

The sky is the limit, literally.

Continental is shopping its concept of the Dynamic Electronic Horizon, which makes modern navigation systems seem about as relevant as the tattered paper maps collecting dust in our glove boxes.

The German mega-supplier, whose portfolio includes instrumentation, display screens and a wide array of safety electronics, developed eHorizon in partnership with IBM and Nokia’s HERE, which is billed as the world’s first “location cloud” that is compatible with any screen and any operating system.

Rather than merely guiding motorists from Point A to Point B, Continental envisions a massively advanced real-time navigation system that takes into account all sorts of factors, including current and forecast weather, road conditions and curvature, the speed of other vehicles on the same road, posted speed limits (even in construction zones) and whether you are about to cross paths with an ambulance or other emergency vehicle.

If an 18-wheeler just jackknifed 5 miles (8 km) ahead, you’ll find out instantly and won’t have to wait for news from the local radio station.

As you approach a red light at an intersection, your car can know how many other vehicles are already waiting and how long until the light will turn green. Based on that information, the vehicle could suggest a slower approaching speed.

Where’s all this information coming from? You guessed it, the cloud.

Continental, as well as others pursuing the concept of connected cars, envisions vehicles capable of performing like sensors, constantly transmitting vital information to the cloud – or, more specifically in the case of eHorizon, the IBM computer servers in Dallas.

There, information can be processed and beamed back to nearby vehicles that would find this information useful. It all can happen in less than a second, we’re told. The car-to-infrastructure portal would be in play, too.

Forgive my inability to process the vast implications. At some point in the future, will it really be possible for some 250 million vehicles on U.S. roads to send a never-ending stream of data to some server whose supreme intelligence allows it to carry on a digital conversation with each and every moving vehicle, even those being recklessly driven?

Mind you, those conversations won’t just be about the weather. We’re talking about the number of cars in the area whose stability-control systems have been activated due to slick roads or whose windshield wipers are running intermittently or at full speed.

Or maybe the discussion is about a traffic situation that won’t be visible to the driver for several minutes and whether it’s a good idea to prep the brakes and steering just in case.

We’re talking really, really Big Data, the kind of computing intelligence that makes me feel utterly inferior as a lowly human – a world where HAL is in charge.

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Feb 19, 2015

Tom, I assume you must be aware that some of this already happens in passenger cars without it even being electronically connected to the car. Navigation built into Google maps running on a smartphone, will reroute you based on detected traffic congestion in a planned path. I recall the first time I noticed this. A few years ago I dismissed an early exit from the expressway as indicated by the navigation because I could not imagine why I would want to take a side road for the last 5 miles of my trip. Low and behold I rounded the corner to find the expressway was now a parking lot. (Obviously my old school distrust for technology left me feeling a little stupid). When this advances and becomes the norm, we will all wonder how we ever survived without it and forgetting how dependent we will have become.

on Feb 19, 2015

I realize this digital conversation is happening already, HugoTheImpaler, but it's still in reasonably limited circumstances and among a small number of vehicles tied in with emerging technologies. I'm more concerned about how this all plays out when every new car in America will come so equipped, digitally connected in ways we can't even conceive of today, well beyond navigation. Am I alone, or doesn't that baffle or even scare the hell out of anyone else?

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Drew Winter is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto World magazine and a Senior Editor at WardsAuto.com. He was won numerous awards for his work in both print and digital media and has been...

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Tom Murphy is executive editor of WardsAuto World magazine, with an emphasis on technology and suppliers. He leads selection of the Ward’s 10 Best Engines and Ward’s 10 Best Interiors...
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