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How IT is influencing the auto industry

Information technology is taking over the auto industry, replacing our former obsession with alternative fuel vehicles and electric cars. And while alternative fuel vehicles (AFV’s) and electric vehicles (EV’s) are still relevant and will continue to evolve and adapt to our lifestyles, information technology is pervading the auto industry as consumers become more accustomed to everything in our lives being connected and automated.

In an article on what’s next for the auto industry, author John DeCicco predicts an increase in the level of automatic control that will lead to full automation over time as cars will soon “join the ‘Internet of things.'” And many others would agree, with benefits for consumers, auto makers, insurance companies and road officials.

With AFV’s and EVs, there is little consumer benefit other than helping the environment and possibly saving money on gasoline, but information technology means better entrainment options and increased productivity. The car is going digital, with the modern car equipped with as many as 200 onboard sensors. “Connected cars” are now offering links to navigation satellites and communication networks that could easily “transform driving, preventing motorists from getting lost, stuck in traffic or involved in accidents.” And all of these sensors also help motorists extend the life of their vehicles with notifications that range from tire pressure issues to dangerously low temps. So the consumer is not only happier while driving, they are also safer. Insurance companies are even using information technology as part of their own dynamic business model to help motorist also save money by attaching a sensor to their vehicle that sends information on their driving habits back to the insurance company for better premiums in exchange for safer driving.

Connecting vehicles to other vehicles (V2V) and devices through wireless networks (V2I) is evolving through a new wireless standard called Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC), which is basically Wi-Fi for automobiles. DSRC has major benefits for drivers as well as road tolls and commercial vehicles. According to the United States Department of Transportation, “V2V and V2I applications utilizing DSRC may have the potential to significantly reduce many of the most deadly types of crashes through real time advisories alerting drivers to imminent hazards–such as veering close to the edge of the road; vehicles suddenly stopped ahead; collision paths during merging; the presence of nearby communications devices and vehicles; sharp curves or slippery patches of roadway ahead.” However, changing our roadways entirely means billions of dollars in upgrades, so while the DOT included DSRC in their strategic research plans for 2010-2014, there is still a lot of progress to make, which include fears of privacy and tech glitches.

While the future of the automobile is somewhat uncertain, one thing is for sure: as our expectations as consumers change and evolve, so will the automobile.

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