Qualcomm’s connected car: 3 good reasons why cities should take notice

Tue, 2015-01-13 12:00 -- Kevin Ebi

International CES, better known as the Consumer Electronics Show, isn’t normally thought of as an automotive event, but Council Lead Partner Qualcomm made a huge splash with its first connected concept car. While its car turned heads for some of its consumer features -- you can charge your phone without plugging it in -- other features could benefit smart cities.

For the show, Qualcomm exhibited two fully-customized concept cars. One was based on the 2015 Maserati Quattroporte GTS; the other, the 2015 Cadillac XTS shown above. Both vehicles feature advanced navigation and infotainment systems, capable of pulling in everything from live sports to Internet radio programming.

Other features, however, could benefit smart cities by improving safety, reducing traffic delays and energy conservation.

Reducing the cost of accidents 
Cities understand, but taxpayers may not, that much of the cost of accidents is paid by the public. Traffic control, accident investigation and cleanup, and some emergency medical care are all paid for with tax dollars. When you add lost productivity due to traffic delays, nearly a quarter of the cost of an accident is paid for by the public.

With that in mind, the Qualcomm concept vehicles provide a number of new features designed to reduce accidents. Voice recognition technology and a heads-up display allow drivers to get vital information and control systems without taking their eyes off the road. Among the information provided is a suggested speed that helps the driver know how much they should slow down to safely take a curve.

LiDAR and ultrasonic sensors check the car’s surroundings for other vehicles and pedestrians. When something is detected, warning information is projected directly onto the windshield, showing the driver where and how far away the obstacle is.

A fully connected vehicle
One focus of energy conservation efforts has been to allow people to control lights and temperature settings when they’re away from the home or office. The vehicles include Qualcomm’s AllJoyn technology, which provides an open-source platform for electronics to identify and communicate with each other.

As more devices connect to the platform, this opens a number of new options to help drivers conserve energy. One day, they may be able to turn devices and lights on or off from the road using voice commands.

The concept cars also feature 4G wireless built-in. That allows drivers to get real-time traffic updates, helping them to avoid traffic delays.

Regulatory changes needed
As is, the concept car isn’t street legal. One of the more innovative features is that the cars don’t have mirrors. The mirrors have been replaced with high-resolution video displays.

It’s not hard to imagine how these are safer than traditional mirrors. The rear-view display shows a feed from a camera on the back of the car, an unobstructed view that simply isn’t possible from a mirror in the vehicle. The side mirrors also display a live feed from cameras on the side of the car that are positioned to avoid blind spots.

But vehicle regulations were written before this technology was feasible. It’s illegal to show video on a car display, a rule that resulted from concerns TV would distract drivers. Until the regulation is changed, these cars of the future will remain concept cars.


Kevin Ebi is a staff writer and social media coordinator for the Council. Follow@smartccouncil on Twitter.

More on the future of cars…
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