The road to connected autonomous cars

With the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) going on this week in Las Vegas, there is tremendous buzz surrounding autonomous and connected vehicles, and the ecosystem of technology that is feeding them. Gartner forecasts 21 million new automobiles will be equipped with data connectivity, either through a built-in communications module or tethered to a mobile device in 2017.

Even with this projected growth, there are some obstacles to autonomous vehicles becoming mainstream. The biggest hurdle will likely be regulatory. Governments will need to feel comfortable with the rules put in place before these cars are released to the general public.

The current state of autonomous vehicle development is still a bit fragmented as automobile manufacturers, large technology providers, chip companies and lesser-known tech innovators are all vying for a seat at the table. The critical capabilities for automated driving cluster around sensing technologies, 3D mapping and data analytics, and algorithms for computer vision, localization and path planning. Until clear leaders and standards begin to emerge in each of these areas, we will continue to see different alliances forming around the autonomous vehicle initiatives of leading car companies.

As connected cars become more readily available, we are only beginning to scratch the surface of understanding and putting to work all of the data that cars are producing. We expect that by 2020, 50 per cent of motor vehicle manufacturers will apply advanced analytics to connected-vehicle data to identify and correct product defects.

This trend provides an unprecedented opportunity for the automotive industry to accelerate the process of locating product defects and identifying root causes. Using data, problems in a whole fleet can be looked at, and the data can help guide engineering decisions and repairs.

Additionally, problems that might not have been previously noticed can be identified.

The impact on the automotive companies that implement these innovations will be reduced costs from recalls, service bulletins and settlements, along with improved customer satisfaction.

Using biometrics to offer a personalized driving experience is another innovation being driven in the connected car technology. Imagine a scenario where a car senses that a driver is having a heart attack and takes over the vehicle from the driver. Ford has patents on systems that can tell when a driver is in an agitated state and will hold incoming phone calls. Preventing people from getting into dangerous situations is opening up many interesting technology avenues. We are also seeing driver monitoring systems – enabled by a camera watching the driver – which are designed to make sure he is not falling asleep or distracted while behind the wheel.

As cars are becoming more automated, they are being equipped with an increasing array of sensing technologies, including cameras, radar and lidar systems. Many automobiles will use image detection as the primary means to identify and classify objects in the vicinity of the vehicle so they can provide more sophisticated responses and even have autonomous control. The captured images can be correlated with time, geolocation and other sensor information for contextual analysis to improve predictive accuracy and enrich the user experience.

Mike Ramsey is a Research Director in Gartner’s CIO Research Group. Mike covers smart mobility and the evolution of the automotive industry, including advanced manufacturing, the rise of vehicle autonomy, connected vehicles, suppliers and future technology.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) delivers actionable, objective insight to executives and their teams. Our expert guidance and tools enable faster, smarter decisions and stronger performance on an organization’s mission critical priorities. To learn more, visit

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