Computers are infiltrating every corner of our life. While the iPhone has been hailed as the greatest invention in recent memory, the innovations that are turning cars into computers are astounding.
This weekend the Calgary Auto Show is underway at the BMO Centre, so here’s a look at some of the ways cars are becoming computers.
They could drive themselves right now if we’d let them. If you really wanted to, you could program an address into a dash panel, climb into the backseat and wake up 7 hours later in Saskatchewan. It could happen – if we’d let it.
Google has been leading the charge of self-driving cars after announcing their self-driving project back in 2010. The idea was to “make driving safer, more enjoyable and more efficient.” Apparently you can’t do that with a person controlling the wheel.
So it’s legal, but could you trust it? Google has had cars roaming the planet for their Street View project, and in over 300 000 miles driven, there has been only one accident – and a person was behind the wheel. The driverless vehicles have racked up 50k miles and still have a clean sheet.
The idea is, that by 2040, you won’t need a drivers’ license to operate a vehicle, they’ll do it on their own. People are still a little uneasy about the idea of giving that control to the machines, so they’re inching us in to the idea. Park assist, where the vehicle parallels itself, is just one way they’re softening us to the idea of self driving cars.
Still a doubter? Watch this blind man take some friends through the drive-thru.
THE DIGITAL DASH
The biggest place you’ll notice the computerization of cars, is on your dashboard. Dials and knobs are replaced by touch screens and apps. Think of everything you can do in your phone, and that can be done in cars. GPS systems are now in-dash. Backup cameras are in-dash. And if you really want to pimp your ride, you’ll find dvd screens up front too.
One story this week has raised eyebrows that car radios could soon disappear from dashboards. In the computerization of the car, there is thought that eventually it will have wireless capabilities without the need of a bluetoothing phone. Instead of a car radio, you’ll pull up a digital service that will let you select from online streaming stations, apps, and all the sorts of ways you currently listen to music on your smartphone. We already have things like that with Pioneer‘s App Radio dashboards. GM and Ford quickly said they were committed to radio.
Ignitions are changing rapidly as well. It’s gone from a key, to a fob, to a start button in many vehicles. Soon, our smartphones will the device that turns the car on, a notion that the industry calls a move towards security – until your phone battery is dead or you drop it in the toilet.
APP OF THE WEEK: Automatic [$69.95]
If you can’t afford one of these fancy new cars, you can still bring computers to your older model this spring. Automatic is a combination app and hardware unit that will launch this May for $69.95. The Automatic Link talks to your car’s onboard computer and uses your smartphone’s GPS and data plan to upgrade your car’s capabilities. It works with just about any car sold in the United States since 1996 to accesses its fuel, mileage and engine information, and then sends it to the iPhone over Bluetooth.