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A Connected Vehicle Future is All in the Details

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Sept. 9, 2020—A couple winters ago, Scott McCormick was driving in the Midwest during a snowstorm. As he started to crest a hill, he noticed that the Google Maps app on his mounted phone showed a bright red road up ahead—traffic had slowed.

McCormick knew that this was likely due to the blizzard conditions and snow blowing across the road.

“I knew because there had to be a whiteout there,” he says. “And sure enough, you get over the hill, and it’s whiteout and everyone is slowing down.”

Being a longtime expert in the field of automotive connectivity, he also thought about how this situation would play out in a V2V—vehicle-to-vehicle—environment. The software would understand that traffic had slowed, but it might not be able to tell if it was due to snow, a crash, or some other reason.

That’s why McCormick, who for years has worked on crucial automotive technology, is trying to push connected vehicle stakeholders toward a detail-oriented approach. The attractive goal of connected, autonomous transportation looms out there, but McCormick says that there are lots of processes that need to be worked out before getting there, such as making sure systems can determine the cause of McCormick's traffic jam.

That way, systems become proactive rather than the current reactive models.

“All the ADAS systems we have are reactive systems,” he says. “The sensors, whether it’s camera or radar or proximity detector, it senses a condition and it reacts to it. And what we’re trying to move the industry forward to is to get to preventative ADAS, where you know what’s up ahead and the car can adjust it’s braking or traction control or speed or whatever in advance of getting to what that condition is.”

McCormick now leads the Connected Vehicle Trade Association, which has a connective technology professional training course as part of its work.


The Repair Angle

If you’re a repair operation that has prepared for ADAS work, then you know how important it can be to track upcoming tech and make plans to incorporate it.

That’s easier said than done with modern vehicles, which are rapidly gaining complexity in onboard computer systems. What’s more is that those digital systems are linked in to all the mechanical systems and with each other.

“Every element in the car was a standalone element,” McCormick says of the prior approach to vehicle design. “Your fuel pump, your generator, your battery, whatever. Now sensors are being fused together to get more knowledge than it got by itself. And systems internal to the car are working cooperatively.”

So when a vehicle is self-parking, for example, it’s incorporating cameras and sensors, as well as taking control of the steering. It’s all interconnected.

As another example, say your shop is servicing a vehicle, and the customer says that the drowsiness detection system failed them. There are a lot of potential culprits.

“You have to figure out how all of this stuff works together and whether or not: Did something fail in the sensor? Did something fail in the communication line between the sensor and whatever the ECU was? Or did it fail when it got information to the processor? Or was the failure getting that to display that information to the driver,” he says. “And before, you just had an idiot light.”


Course Correction

McCormick’s Connected Vehicle Trade Association was created to address connected vehicle technology for all stakeholders, from OEs and suppliers to tech companies and network carriers (and others). It currently includes 24 industry groups.

He says that a knowledge gap needs to be closed for connected and autonomous vehicle technology to succeed. Part of those gaps are in siloed fields of expertise.

“They just aren't all in one place,” McCormick says. “Almost all the cybersecurity people came from the IT industry. We didn’t have any cybersecurity in cars.”

Now cybersecurity is huge in the vehicle world.

To close gaps, the CVTA has a Connected Vehicle Professional Course that can be tailored to any industry segment, including repair. It touches on topics like hardware, communication protocols, infrastructure, laws and regulations and cybersecurity.

Filling the knowledge gap could lead to a smoother transition into an autonomous transportation future.

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