My home country, the UK, has started easing lockdown restrictions and, as such, people will undoubtedly be eager to get back in their cars and travel to a “staycation” or perhaps somewhere possibly sunnier in Europe.
Ubiquitous connectivity with 5G and 6G
With this in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts regarding the future of the electric vehicle (EV). With hydrogen currently being developed and stabilized, the EV is establishing itself as the de facto “green” alternative to your traditional petrol or diesel vehicle. What we are now witnessing is a unified solidarity of many car manufacturers, who are keen to flash a “green card” in their quest to help save the planet. And rightly so! In fact, I think it’s rather primitive that we still fill up our chosen mode of transport with flammable liquids for our planes, trains and automobiles. Having said that, there are, of course, electric trains and cars, but the electric plane is still quite a while away due to the enhanced battery technology needed to evolve and safely mature this mode of transport.
So, I don’t want to talk with you about the future of the battery, since I did this in The humble life of a battery, although I might return to this subject once the industry has endowed the battery with a stealthier and longer life. Anyway, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss some far reaching ideas about the future of the electric vehicle and, more specifically, combining ubiquitous technology such as 5G or even 6G (more about the latter in another column)!
No blackspots, no more excuses
But, for now, my focus this month is to take a closer look at the potential consequences and future of the car, like I said, especially with pervasive technologies such as 5G. We are currently seeing self-driving or autonomous vehicles enjoy some moderate success, but human intervention is always advisable as the technology powering such vehicles isn’t quite there yet and may never achieve the confidence of a generation who still enjoy taking the reins and being in charge of their horse and carriage.
As 5G is rolled out and becomes more pervasive, we can increasingly become confident that there will be no more blackspots. For example, when a car enters a tunnel today, typically you will lose cellular connectivity and, as a result of the enclosed space, your GPS. Rather, what I expect to see happen across the UK is that, even in the remotest of areas, there will be a small cell (potentially) initiated blanket of connectivity, ensuring we always remain connected no matter where we are.
Are you feeling nervous?
Now, here comes the scary stuff: What if car manufacturers enable cellular connectivity as standard in your vehicle? Okay, admittedly, this notion isn’t entirely new – some cars are being fitted with SIMs for eCall (emergency calls) for example, which is a European initiative. So, if your vehicle is involved in an accident, then a call is automatically made to emergency services and I’m sure some manufacturers may collect data about the operation and performance of your car, hopefully with your consent.
But with pervasive connectivity, your car becomes integral to a wider network, such that both autonomous and retro-fitted standard vehicles can communicate with one another about their speed, along with comparing road conditions and weather.
With such technology controlling and mandating our behavior across the road network, traffic offenses, accidents and car theft will be a thing of the past.
No more speed cameras!
Current traffic light systems that are used to coordinate the flow of traffic from one avenue to another will also be able to interoperate with the vehicle, notifying the driver of a green or red light and informing them that he or she should heed the notice and slowdown, or safely stop, if red. Drivers who are sat in their car waiting at a red light are perhaps unable to engage their vehicle because it’s not safe to do so. However, with emergency vehicles attempting to filter through the traffic, the traffic lights would signal to a driver that they may engage their vehicle to allow the continued flow of emergency services.
Likewise, speed traffic signs are already intelligently enabled to notify the driver of the speed on the road or a given area, but this will further evolve to include data collection. A car typically possesses two identities, namely the vehicle identity number (VIN), which is an identifying code for a specific car that is assigned at manufacture. The second identity is the vehicle registration number or the number plate of the car and is unique to the owner of the vehicle. So, with smarter signs across local roads and motorways, the speed camera will become disbanded, since cars will be innately able to inform the police that their driver is speeding or may even slow or stop the car automatically, in adherence with the law – possibly new laws!
There’s no need for car insurance
With such technology controlling and mandating our behavior across the road network, traffic offenses, accidents and car theft will be a thing of the past. More so, your car can be tracked and traced no matter where you are.
Car insurers will undoubtedly insist that your vehicle is equipped with this new fandangled technology, but I don’t believe it will disappear altogether – because there’s always an idiot and the unexpected. We can only hope that, with such a future, our insurance premiums are more of a token gesture for the unexpected and are not so inflated that they may bankrupt some of us.
Until next time …
Yes, Big Brother has truly put his feet under the tarmac, so to speak. In such a future, we can certainly embrace fewer accidents, deaths and potentially have a far more relaxing experience getting from A to B. Travelling in our cars will no longer necessarily be a chore, but what about teleportation and the ability to instantly shift from one space to another? Alas, I might not be here to write a column about that!
So, this is where your “currently revving my V8 4.2l supercharged engine” Dr. G signs off.