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Driving Smarter

Published: February 12, 2014

Author: Molly Shotwell

One of the primary themes of CES this year was the so-called Internet of Things (or IoT if you’re an acronym person). From Sony’s smart tennis racket that will help you improve your swing to Kolibree’s smart toothbrush that tracks your brushing habits, borderline creepy digitally enabled physical objects stole the show in Las Vegas.


Just several days after CES, Google bought connected device company Nest for $3.2 billion, a pretty clear sign that the tech giant intends to significantly extend its hardware reach. If Google’s move isn’t enough to convince you that the Internet of Things is big business, Cisco CEO John Chambers has valued the IoT at $19 trillion, and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer stated that the Internet of Things will create a “tipping point” for businesses in 2014. Whatever the eventual magnitude of this shift may be, it’s apparent that as more and more traditionally non-digital items are jumping online, new markets are emerging, developing, and transforming at a frantic pace.

In this post, I want to focus on some cool IoT happenings in an area that is near and dear to my fellow Angelinos: driving. Below are a few exciting new car-related technologies that you should be aware of.

 smart carsSmart Cars & Car Apps – In addition to a whole host of cars with increasingly more complicated baked-in digital capabilities coming down the production line (such as the upcoming 2015 Audi A3 sedans), a number of ‘smart driving’ apps have emerged for both iOS & Android devices. The apps are typically paired with a hardware device (an OBD) that connects to the car, and they offer a wide range of features including real-time feedback on your driving, trip logs, access to vehicle diagnostics, maps showing where to find the cheapest gas nearby, crash detection & automatic authority notification, and even reminders about where you parked your car.

While there are a ton of companies putting out apps, some of the biggest names in the space at present are Dash, Automatic, Torque, Carvoyant, CarMD, and Car Doctor.

smart parking

Smart Parking – Pretty much everyone can relate to struggling to find parking, but few realize just how much congestion and pollution it causes. According to Telefonica, up to 30 to 45 percent of traffic in some cities is caused by motorists searching for parking, and one study found that in just one 15-block district in Los Angeles, drivers looking for parking produced 730 tons of carbon dioxide in just one year. The solution is of course digitally enabled parking spaces that are monitored through a central system, or app. The app can direct drivers to open spaces nearby, thus helping them avoid driving in circles and clogging up streets. Smart parking solutions are already appearing for cities that provide real-time parking data.

In the US, Santa Monica-based ParkMe’s app provides real-time street parking maps for a number of cities, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, and Detroit, among others. Notable competitors include Streetline & ParkWhiz. In the UK, such a system is just now being rolled out in the Westminster section of London, where local councilmembers report that drivers spend an average of 15 minutes looking for a parking space. As more and more cities ‘smartify’ their parking spaces, look for increased competition in the smart parking arena.

 Augmented reality

Augmented Reality – Slightly more advanced than either ODBs or smart parking is the addition of augmented reality (or AR) to the driving experience. In short, AR technology provides a digitally-enhanced view of the real world and aims to connect you with more meaningful real-time content in your everyday life. In this case, think either a future version of Google Glass or a better, less violent version of the Terminator or RoboCop’s view that is “built” on your vehicle’s windshield. Pioneer’s NavGate head-up display is one early example, and Toyota’s FV2 concept demo at CES provided a creative take on the same theme. Assuming in-vehicle AR solutions can integrate in such a way that they are not a dangerous distraction, I believe that there is a good deal of utility to be had from them.

I expect to see major developments in all three of these areas in 2014, and for personal reasons I’m particularly excited to see how smart parking progresses. Biggest item on my wish list: I want my car to warn me when it is in danger of receiving a ticket (expired meter, street sweeping, change in parking zone rules, etc.).  Would be very helpful for combatting street parking rules like the monstrosity below.

parking signs

Now if only we could develop smart humans…

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