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In the early years of the 20th century, the introduction of the automobile transformed society in ways that reached far beyond the simple trading of a horse-drawn vehicle for a Model T. Previously isolated communities were connected by new roads, manufacturers could get their goods to more markets, industries were created, and opportunities opened up for a newly mobile workforce. As columnist George F. Will put it, “In a historical blink, the automobile emancipated humanity from what has been called ‘the tyranny of distance."1 Today, technological and social forces such electric and autonomous vehicles and shared mobility are converging to usher in a revolution that is just as transformative, if not more so.
The internet of things (IoT), with its ability to connect edge sensors and data collectors to the cloud, is key to putting autonomous (self-driving) and connected vehicles on the street. Fueled by artificial intelligence (AI), these IoT-driven vehicles support smart cities and a sustainable future by reducing costs and environmental impact and improving safety and traffic flow. They also support new transportation-as-a-service business models such as the increasingly popular ridesharing and ride-hailing services.
New technologies are also being used for cybersecurity in connected vehicles. The constant flow of data from drivers, vehicles, manufacturers, service centers, and community infrastructure must be protected from malicious exploitation. Just a few years ago, for example, researchers were able to wirelessly hack the dashboard computers in some Chrysler vehicles, taking over not only the dashboard functions but also steering, transmission, and brakes.2
As more and more connected vehicles emerge onto the public roadways, the volumes of data they will generate and consume will become massive. That’s where blockchain will join IoT and AI and deliver innovative solutions for mobility. Secure by design, blockchain is tamper-resistant and is tailor-made to protect the large volumes of data that connected vehicles will produce, while ensuring transparency and accuracy. A blockchain solution backed by cybersecurity expertise can protect both vehicle systems and personal information from being hacked.
The capabilities of these new technologies go beyond enhancing and protecting the driving experience. As many manufacturers have learned, AI and IoT can proactively predict mechanical failures and breakdowns, saving money and prevent accidents. In fact, by 2025, McKinsey estimates that predictive maintenance will save manufacturers $240 to $627 billion annually.3
These same benefits can apply to vehicle dealers, mechanics, and owners as well. For example, a connected, IoT-based vehicle could detect a problem before immediate attention is needed. It could tell its operator what it needs, order the part, make an appointment for itself at the nearest service center, and then – if the vehicle is autonomous – drive itself there. This scenario may be closer than you might think, and its roots are already well established in predictive maintenance.
Predictive maintenance solutions use analytics and AI to diagnose potential problems before they put vehicles out of commission, allowing owners and drivers to save money and avoid the inconvenience of unanticipated repairs. And AI-based predictive maintenance makes vehicles safer, alerting drivers to potential problems before they become hazardous.
As the journey to the future of mobility unfolds, further technologies will emerge to drive it forward. It will be fascinating to watch how communities, businesses, and society navigate this highway to smarter and safer cities.