It’s common for movies to try to imagine what the future will be like 10 or 20 years from now. The classic Back to the Future movie predicted that 2015 would consist of self-fitting clothes, hover boards and flying cars. And now, one of those ideas is not too far from reality.

Just last week, Tampa was the first to test connected vehicle technology. According to Fox13 News, Tampa was the perfect test subject since there is an abundance of traffic from the expressways that flow into a large urban area with lots of foot and street traffic. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) is planning to install the connected vehicle technology to 10 buses, 10 streetcars, and the cars of 1600 volunteer cars by 2018. Their aim is to make downtown Tampa a safer place in hopes of preventing Tampa car accidents, distracted driving accidents, pedestrian accidents and also improve the flow of traffic and fuel efficiency.

Connected Vehicle Technology

Connected vehicle technology will allow vehicles, roadways, infrastructure and smartphones to communicate with one another simultaneously to share transportation information. This type of unique communication will be supported by dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), which works similarly to how we use Wi-Fi. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, DSRC technology will continually transmit your GPS location, direction, and speed to other vehicles on the road. In addition, it will be able to communicate your connected car with traffic stoplights, stop signs, toll booths, school zones and railroad crossings.

A connected car (connected vehicle technology) differs from a self-driving car (autonomous vehicle technology) in that the vehicle is not making choices for the driver. Instead, it is supplying information to the driver about his or her surroundings and situations to avoid. This type of technology is crucial to save lives and prevent accidents between connected cars and other vehicles and infrastructure.

Benefits of Connected Cars

Connected cars will allow for shorter commute times and a more efficient way to travel. Some other benefits of connected cars include:

  • Accident prevention
  • Reduced maintenance costs for roadways and infrastructure
  • Reduced travel times
  • More fuel-efficient and environmental-friendly vehicles

Although connected cars have plenty of benefits, new technology also has plenty of challenges as well. Connected vehicle technology can potentially encounter issues with driver privacy and security, data analytics, and aggregation because of the amount of data associated with vehicles and other elements. That’s why companies like Honda and Mercedes-Benz are continuing to research and develop the best connected vehicle technology on the market.

Autonomous Vehicle Technology

Some vehicles have autonomous features like self-parking or auto-collision avoidance, but fully autonomous cars are yet to hit the road. Big tech companies like Google and Apple have been working alongside car manufacturing companies like BMW, GM and Tesla to develop the best self-driving vehicle technology. Fully autonomous, or self-driving cars, still need to have some connected vehicle technology, but operate without direct driver control. This means that vehicles make decisions for the driver regarding steering, acceleration, and braking. Even though they’re not on the market yet, self-driving cars are definitely in our near future!