5 January 2014

When it comes to mobile technology, most people think of small portable devices, not a two-ton machine. But today’s automakers are embracing smartphone and mobile computing technologies that will safely integrate our digital lives into our driving experiences.

A record nine automotive firms are appearing at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show to highlight new tech innovations that are redefining mobility. Instead of bringing your tablet from your home to your office, you might have a dashboard that brings your Internet access in a safe way while you drive.

“What’s remarkable is seeing how well the automotive industry fits into CES,” said Elliot Garbus, general manager of the Automotive Solutions Division at Intel.

“It’s a busy time and the presence of automakers continues to grow.”

Intel will be showcasing two vehicles at its CES booth this year. According to Garbus, who’s responsible for delivering Intel’s vision for connected cars, spanning from in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems to intelligent transportation systems.

IVI systems offer real-time info, voice recognition, and in-car connectivity to mobile devices and the Web, letting consumers seamlessly carry their daily digital habits into their cars. In-Stat forecasts that more than 35 million IVI systems will ship in 2015.

“There’s a lot of focus on IVI because it brings differentiation,” Garbus explained. “We’re seeing desire by consumers to maintain a connection with their digital lifestyle and that’s influencing their purchasing decisions.”

Services like Pandora are already being integrated into cars, and experts predict more apps will be built into vehicle design to create a mobile phone-like experience for drivers.

In the near future, a problem could be fixed by having a car download a software update, whereas automakers in the past would have had to issue a recall. Such innovations are allowing auto firms to maintain a connection with customers and provide continuous improvements. More than 42 million cars are expected to be equipped with Internet access by 2017, according to iSuppli.

Automakers are also introducing sensors that provide “computer vision,” which allows cars to see the road, detect blind spots during lane changes, and even warn drivers about bicycles or pedestrians nearby.

“I’ve seen NHTSA Data reports stating that about 90-percent of the recorded accidents are a result of human failure of the parties involved,” said Garbus. “Now we’re seeing tech that’s leading to self-driving vehicles, and more automakers are trying to design an accident-free vehicle. Computing combined with sensors can create cars that are aware of their surroundings and provide a safer driving experience by controlling the car directly or warning the driver. It’s about using tech to help keep drivers safe.”

Semi-autonomous and fully self-driving cars are closer than ever before, but given the industry’s four- to five-year design cycle, most of the advanced models showcased at CES may not hit the market until 2018.

Intel’s Intelligent Systems Alliance is hoping to accelerate the development timeline by harnessing more than 2,500 tech solutions based on the latest processor technology. By collaborating with companies like Jaguar Land Rover, Intel aims to speed time-to-market for intelligent driving systems by sharing its research and development experts and resources.

“We have great research in Intel Labs on leveraging user experience inside cars, understanding how people use their cars, and how to enable cars to leverage their tech to enhance experience,” Garbus noted.

That means that soon, the mobile device you use most often might not be in your pocket, but in your driveway.

Read more from Intel iQ on the future of automative and technology

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Images courtesy of Intel Free Press and Jaguar Land Rover.