Looking ahead to 2018, we see a number of trends that will not only enhance the driver experience by offering greater convenience and entertainment, but also boost driver safety as well. Here are some of the key contributors to convenience, happiness and safety for drivers.

The Rise of Off-Board Services
Most new vehicles are no longer constrained by the data limitations of a driver’s cellular plan and now come equipped with embedded modems that are connected from the time they’re driven off the dealer’s lot. With each passing year vehicle operating systems become more like smart phones in that they obtain over-the-air updates and include the ability to load applications to make each driver’s experience unique.

The overall driver experience depends on having constant access to cloud services, regardless of whether or not a driver is using a mirrored smartphone screen or accessing the app from the vehicle operating system that is connected to the cloud. The driver experience also depends on the capabilities of third party data providers, which include the ability to consume, normalize, merge, deduplicate and generally make sense of combined datasets in the context of transportation, and then deliver data to the vehicle with low latency. In short, those who have the most data will win the user experience.

Earlier this year I had a dinner date with my wife in Seattle. It just so happened that there was a University of Washington football game, a Seattle Sounders soccer match, and a Seattle Mariners baseball game which all started within an hour of each other and were all in the path between our home and the restaurant. Beyond these events, the primary ramp we would use to get into the city was closed for construction, there was a crash blocking two lanes on our primary route across Lake Washington, and all four of the parking garages near our restaurant were at capacity.

Had we not taken any of this into account and only departed within the normal five-minute buffer for parking, we would have never made it to dinner on time – the difference between the normal travel time and that for this specific evening differed by over an hour! In the end, we used INRIX for traffic, incident and parking information and concluded that we should have dinner closer to home. This is the type of data that vehicles need to truly assist drivers. These connected services will enable your car to paint a complete navigation picture. Cars will soon be able to go beyond solely what’s happening on the roads to include your preferences based on learned behavior, delivering a fully personalized experience.

The Information Mesh
When you combine data about human preferences, services, content and devices you create a mesh that informs how your vehicle should assist you, more specifically how it helps you without asking for your input. Instead of asking a question your car will begin to remind you of things that you need to do, such as pick of flowers for your anniversary, grab your dry cleaning on your way home, or suggest you stop for gas at the next intersection to save $1.85. Combining your phone, your car, and the cloud will allow your car to make decisions for you, learn from your preferences and add efficiency to how you travel. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will act behind the curtain, but what the driver will simply see be a personalized experience based on history, location and learned preferences.

Vehicle to Vehicle Communication
Much has been written about the benefits of vehicles communicating with one another. Much like commercial aircraft use a technology called ADS-B to continually broadcast their location, heading, speed, altitude and type to other surrounding aircraft, cars will communicate location too. It is the machine-to-machine location awareness that will play a big part in keeping occupants safe; whether it’s chain reaction braking or knowing with zero latency that a nearby vehicle is changing lanes, V2V movement awareness will contribute heavily to roadway safety.

travel-related information that keep drivers safe, such as slick road conditions or a dangerous slowdown up ahead.

The USDOT has issued guidance on how vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure will allow machines to “talk” to each other by 2020. Think about your car talking to other cars ten times per second within a 300-meter radius with the goal of preventing collisions, or where your car is talking to the traffic light 50 meters in front of you to reduce its speed to save on gas. Bicycles too could be equipped to broadcast their location to cars.

Implementations are likely to include both dedicated short-range communications between vehicles, as well as cloud-based services that provide insight into what is happening further ahead, such as closed roads, police activity or other navigational impeding events. Combining both the short-range communication protocol and the longer-range cloud service will help keep drivers (passengers when autonomous vehicles hit the roads) safe and moving more efficiently. I expect we’ll be hearing far more about the protocols that will be used to broadcast continual location in the spirit of improved safety for all.

Conversational Cars
Have you talked to Alexa or said ‘Hey Google’ in your kitchen? Well, your car is about to become conversational too. Except it will be tuned toward what will help you while you’re driving. Your car, or its cloud-based brethren, is likely to suggest restaurants based on your prior requests to Yelp or might ask if you want to pay for your parking before you get to the entrance gate. The conversational abilities of your car will be honed to improve the time you spend in your car and will move far beyond asking for an update on the score of the Sounder’s match. Voice recognition and the fluid conversational nature of your interaction with your car will arrive in a bigger way.

Location Based Experiences
The location-powered experience is likely to fully arrive. Digital coupons will be served up as you pass by Chipotle, enticing you to pull over for a Burrito Bowl. You will also be provided with proactive suggestions on where to park based on how much it will cost, and as part of the navigational experience, you’ll be offered routes to your destination that are the greenest, the safest, the fastest or the most scenic, if you prefer. You’ll be offered the audible ability to pay for tolls several kilometers before you’re on a pay-to-drive section of road; and you’ll be alerted to heavy braking or icy roads several kilometers before your safety is at risk. Your car will become smarter and more proactive based on the many cloud based services it communicates with.