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Jim Holmes: A Connected Future (CES 2016)

Connected technology was a big focus at this year’s CES and it was evident how it is merging its way across multiple industries, particularly in automotive. For years, the likes of Google have been showing off their self-driving cars and slowly but surely, our driving experiences are being increasingly automated. Take the self-parking car for example, where you simply pull up along side a space, push a button et voila you are magically parked.

There were some bold statements coming not just from technology companies in the automotive space, but from the auto manufacturers themselves at CES 2016. Aside from a full set of keynotes focusing on urban mobility, there were also 2 keynotes from Volkswagen and General Motors, both hyping the advances they have made in connected and self-driving cars.

Volkswagen presented a series of cars (some available this year) that have some very smart technology built in. Features such as smarter lane control, fully adaptive cruise control, self parking and the less useful feature of being able to answer your door from your car have all found their way inside the new VW cars. There was also a demonstration of how all cars on the road can ‘talk’ amongst themselves to help avoid crashes, traffic jams and to also make best use of parking spaces.

There are big issues to overcome in the self driving car space, not least how to come to terms with the fact that your smart self driving car one day may have to decide to kill you rather than someone else. In addition to the cultural and theological aspects, there are still the technical hurdles to overcome. Hurdles such as security, reliability and how to make the multiple car brands all support a common eco system to allow the type of communication between vehicles that is necessary to allow for full automation.

What is clear from this years CES is that these issues are all very much on the radars of the car manufacturers. Couple this with the additional support that car brands are buying in from 3rd party technology providers and I can imagine that many of them will be addressed before next years show.

This will further help to shift the perception of the automotive industry away from pollution and danger and more towards sustainability and social good. Self driving cars on their own can in theory totally remove the need to actually own a car and instead just use them as and when you need to. This would lead to a big reduction in the total number of cars manufactured and therefore less traffic jams, congestion and road deaths. Look to Tesla and Chevrolet to be leading the way here and Uber to be first in line when it becomes a reality!

Jim Holmes, CTO, Adjust Your Set