The Connected Car: The Future of Driving

The Connected Car: The Future of Driving


Imagine that you’re driving down the road, wind flying through your hair, the speedometer is somewhere between eighty and eighty-five (in a sixty mile per hour area), then all of a sudden a kid with a bicycle pulls out in front of your car! But, you’re the favorite song is on the radio, you’re singing off key, then you see the bike and slam on the brakes! Do you stop in time? Does the bike go flying into the hills? Who cares! It’s a blog post! No one was ever in danger. As we are just entering the twenty-first century, the world around us is changing. Technology becomes miniaturized, fuel economy is getting better, and compact discs are no longer the way music is listened to. Some of this technology is going to be sitting with you in the driver’s seat, either driving your car or helping you make decisions when you drive. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is working with technology vendors on how to interoperate this technology into your next generation vehicles. Today’s blog post is about the DOT’s vision of the “Connected Car.”

The Connected Car

According to the Department of Transportation, the Connected Car is: “The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT’s) Connected Vehicle program is working with state and local transportation agencies, vehicle and device makers, and the public to test and evaluate technology that will enable cars, buses, trucks, trains, roads, and other infrastructure, and our smartphones and other devices to “talk” to one another. Cars on the highway, for example, would use short-range radio signals to communicate with each other so every vehicle on the road would be aware of where other nearby vehicles are. Drivers would receive notifications and alerts of dangerous situations, such as someone about to run a red light as they’re nearing an intersection or an oncoming car, out of sight beyond a curve, swerving into their lane to avoid an object on the road.” (1) The technology has the potential to reduce car crashes by 80%. “Every year, there are over 5 million crashes on our roads. Of these crashes, over 30,000 people still die, and many more sustain serious injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In fact, the leading cause of death among young children and young adults is vehicle crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.”(1) Also: “Connected vehicle technology is also less expensive to install than radar and camera equipment in vehicles. This will enable it to become standard equipment in the future on practically all vehicles, not just luxury cars.”

Connected Car vs. Autonomous Driving Vehicle

Many times people get these two terms confused. The Connected Car does not use radar, LIDAR, cameras, and other “line of sight” technologies to communicate between vehicles, that’s the domain of autonomous driving vehicles. “The DOT has a separate plan for autonomous vehicles The USDOT’s Intelligent Transportation System Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) has established an automation program within the overall ITS program. As a first step, the program has developed a 2015–2019 Multimodal Program Plan for Vehicle Automation, a key component of the ITS JPO’s ITS Strategic Plan 2015–2019. The program plan establishes the vision, role, and goals, as well as a broad research roadmap for automation research at the USDOT” (2)

These vehicles have five levels:

  • “Level 0: Automated system issues warnings and may momentarily intervene but has no sustained vehicle control.
  • Level 1 (”hands-on”): Driver and automated system share control over the vehicle. An example would be Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) where the driver controls steering, and the computerized system controls speed. Using Parking Assistance, steering is automated while speed is manual. The driver must be ready to retake full control at any time. Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA) Type II is a further example of level 1 self-driving.
  • Level 2 (”hands-off”): The automated system takes full control of the vehicle (accelerating, braking, and steering). The driver must monitor the driving and be prepared to immediately intervene at any time if the automated system fails to respond properly. The shorthand ”hands off” is not meant to be taken literally. In fact, contact between hand and wheel is often mandatory during SAE 2 driving, to confirm that the driver is ready to intervene.
  • Level 3 (”eyes off”): The driver can safely turn their attention away from the driving tasks, e.g., the driver can text or watch a movie. The vehicle will handle situations that call for an immediate response, like emergency braking. The driver must still be prepared to intervene within some limited time, specified by the manufacturer when called upon by the vehicle to do so. The 2018 Audi A8 Luxury Sedan was the first commercial car to claim to be able to do level 3 self-driving. The car has a so-called Traffic Jam Pilot. When activated by the human driver, the car takes full control of all aspects of driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 60 kilometers per hour. The function works only on highways with a physical barrier separating oncoming traffic.
  • Level 4 (”mind off”): As level 3, but no driver attention is ever required for safety, i.e. the driver may safely go to sleep or leave the driver’s seat. Self-driving is supported only in limited areas (geofenced) or under special circumstances, like traffic jams. Outside of these areas or circumstances, the vehicle must be able to safely abort the trip, i.e. park the car, if the driver does not retake control.
  • Level 5 (”steering wheel optional”): No human intervention is required. An example would be a robotic taxi.”

Currently, the DOT is testing: “ … critical research questions regarding driver transitions between automated and manual driving modes, such as how drivers perform over time when using these systems. This initial policy study, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the ITS Joint Program Office, addresses human factors research questions focused on drivers transitioning into and out of automated driving states enabled by Level 2 and Level 3 automated driving concepts. The results support the development of initial human factors driver-vehicle interface principles. Project partners include the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Battelle, Bishop Consulting, General Motors, Google, and the Southwest Research Institute.”

How do they work?

“Your vehicle, and eventually practically every other vehicle on the road, will use DSRC, as well as GPS, cellular, Bluetooth, and other communications systems, to attain 360-degree awareness of nearby vehicles. This equipment will continually transmit your position, direction, and speed (e.g., whether you were turning or putting on your brakes), as well as other information, to vehicles sharing the road with you. It will even “talk” to equipment installed on the road itself and other infrastructure, such as traffic signals, stop signs, toll booths, work or school zones, and railroad crossings.”(5)

The DOT has an excellent presentation of how connected vehicles will work in the future:


The future of automobiles goes far beyond the cameras, and the “level 5” automation we hear about in the news from Waymo, Apple, Uber, and others. The greatest benefit is the DOT’s program of the “connected car” is linking all of the traffic, construction zones, and buildings together into one WiFi network. Thousands of lives can be saved through this integration. So, as you’re driving your car down the highway, you can be less concerned about that biker crossing the street in front of you and into your favorite tune on the radio.

For more information on all of the aspects of the Connected Car, watch this video:

Thank you for reading this week’s blog entries. I hope you are enjoying them. If you have any ideas, questions, comments, or concerns: please let me know. Thanks.




Originally published at




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Nick Stockton

Nick Stockton

Life is short. This blog is shorter. You could have spent your time reading all sorts or articles, but I am glad you are reading mine.

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