We want Britannia's mobe-enabled cars to rule the roads

The tech may be willing but the mobile signal is too weak

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Whatever Apple and Google might be doing with smart cars, the UK government wants Britain to be involved in the industry and so announced its support for the emerging industry at a conference last week.

Yet the government – and more importantly, the car industry – has a huge amount to learn before their shared vision of the UK leading the connected car market can be made real.

A report by KPMG claims that coming investment in autonomous vehicles will add £51bn to the British economy, generate 320,000 jobs in the UK and save thousands of lives by 2030, as most accidents are caused by people. In a video, George Osborne said, “I want Britain to be right in the heart of it”, off the back of £100m he set aside in the budget for developing smart cars.

KPMG’s John Leech told El Reg that the boost would come "largely by better use of time in the vehicle, increasing productivity, labour market flexibility and much greater opportunity for trade”. He said that the research methodology followed the Treasury’s green book, the method the Department of Transport would use to measure the benefits of driverless cars.

The report's authors looked at technology roadmaps and all the assumptions taken from OEM studies and academic research. Their numbers allowed for the fact that jobs such as delivery drivers would disappear.

“It really is broadly felt,” said Leech. “The automotive industry alone will add 25,000 people.”

Communication is the key, but not the low-latency, high-bandwidth OFDM kind of communication. It’s all about talking to people. Coffee and canapés communication.

To inspire the motor industry, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' conference featured Minister of Fun Ed Vaizey* and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Robert Goodwill*, where they spoke to those great British companies Ford (American), BMW (German), Nissan (Franco-Japanese), Jaguar Land Rover (Indian), Volvo (Chinese) and Bosch.

The only British company speaking was ARM, tucked away in the less-attended of the two work streams. It wasn’t just Britain which was under-represented in the world of the connected car. The comms industry also failed to get a look-in. No Vodafone (which owns car telematics company Cobra), no Jasper and no Telefonica – all companies with significant interests in machine-to-machine communications.

Neither was there a presence from the hardware giants of the space. While Ericsson has spoken about strong alliances with Volvo, the Swedes joined Nokia, Huawei and the other infrastructure manufacturers in not being present.

What Chris Turner of ARM had to say was interesting. While the processors designed for automotive applications are mostly the same as those used in mobile phones and other consumer electronics devices, they are profiled differently, with more of an emphasis on reliability and safety. Yet the car industry faces the challenge that while lots of cars are made, the volumes for each model or even platform are relatively modest when compared with mobile phones.

ARM, however, needs to be kept in the loop by the car manufacturers for future requirements.


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