Automotive automation shifts into high gear

The automobile as we know it—as well as the auto industry—is being dramatically transformed by technology. How dramatically? Enough that today’s vehicles could be reasonably described as highly mobile computing platforms.

Cars are even starting to physically resemble some mobile devices. Take the award-winning Tesla Model S, an all-electric sports sedan. It’s been described as an “iPad on steroids” and no wonder: The driver uses its 17-inch touch screen, located in the center of the dashboard, to control media, navigation, communications, the cabin and vehicle data.

Tesla is far from alone. Automakers including BMW, Ford, GM, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen are advancing automotive IT, too, and far beyond the “gee-whiz” factor. Their IT-powered systems are improving many aspects of driving, including safety, maintenance, emergency response rates, navigation and convenience. These systems also provide access to a wide variety of useful information and entertainment.

A further development, known as the connected car, uses machine-to-machine networking to link drivers with mobile data, contacts and applications. The most advanced of today’s connected cars add links to nearby pedestrians, roadblocks and stop signs, the car’s manufacturer and dealer, traffic conditions, weather information and even other vehicles on the road. These links make driving both safer and more convenient.

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