There are a lot of great things on the horizon for MCU makers like Atmel. The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to be a huge boon for companies like us that make both microcontrollers and radio chips. Just last week I read that you can consider an automobile just another “thing” in the IoT. So it was with great interest that I read an article about how the American National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) is encouraging manufacturers to design cars that communicate with each other to make them safer.
This is based on observations and research of accidents that could have been avoided if vehicles can communicate without driver intervention. Needless to say, the US automakers are not pushing it. “Mitch Bainwol, the [Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers] president and chief executive, raised doubts that such systems could be feasible in the near term.” I sent this article to Susanne, a co-worker that works with Atmel’s automotive group. She notes: “…not that long way off as you may think: Daimler will launch this year the first car ever with intelligent drive function including car-to-car communication.” The Daimler Car-to-X system is the wireless exchange of information between vehicles and between vehicles and transport infrastructure. Daimler has been testing a system since the Spring of 2012.
A little research shows that the European automakers are out ahead of this technology. There is a consortium of Mercedes Benz/ Daimler, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Ford, and Opel involved with testing real world systems. They call it Sim TD (Safe intelligent mobility Testfield). Volkswagen and BMW independently came up with smart intersection technology back in 2011.
When you look at the tragic train accident in Spain, most likely caused by operator negligence, you can see how smart transportation can offer immense benefits to the public. If rail corners had wireless transmitters, the curve could override the irresponsible or incompetent throttle input of the human driving the train. That is independent of the internet of things, where a car can look up real-time road conditions. At the SAE Convergence show a few years back, I saw one automaker talk about how the car can connect to the Internet to see the grade of a highway is it on. That will help it plan the shift-points of the transmission for best safety and fuel economy.
It won’t take many instances of showing we can save the lives of innocent passengers, or children on school busses, before the public will demand car-to-X communication. An added benefit will be the fuel economy and convenience benefits. When the auto industry is ready, Atmel will be there to enable the technology.