Connected and automated cars are popping up in every major IT show, from Consumer Electronic Show to Mobile World Congress. The current discussion is who is winning the race to launch a fully autonomous car. Apple and Google are working hard on self-driving cars, but Ford, Audi, and BMW are getting more connected, and looking at full integration with new networks. Everyone agrees the future is on 100% electric vehicles.

Two months ago, U.S.-based electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla launched what the industry called a game changer in the market of zero-emissions cars: the Tesla Model 3. The new series, with an affordable Rs. 23.65 lakh ($35,000) price tag, allows potential customers to purchase a medium range electric vehicle that performs as well, and even better, than a conventional gas powered equivalent. Tesla received 115,000 pre-orders of the car before the official launch and more that 300,000 the first weekend of April.

Tesla 01 Figure 1: Tesla Model 3 (Image courtesy: Tesla)

Despite the lower gas prices during the past two years many car buyers are making the shift to electric vehicles. The percentage of zero-emissions vehicles sales are still small, but growing steadily. The trend is much bigger in Northern European countries such as Norway and Denmark, where big tax breaks and higher gas prices make the purchasing decision a lot easier.

Electric cars are not the only revolution in the world of automobiles. The industry is now embracing a new wave of technologies that will make driving a complete new experience in the next few years. Everyday cars get more connected, more autonomous, and safer.

Technologies such as Car-to-Car (C2C) and Car-to-Infrastructure (C2X) connectivity are starting to appear in medium-range and high-end vehicles, and some forms of autonomous driving, such as Tesla's D autopilot and Audi's self-parking, are already in use. Those technologies are making a big impact on the supply chain, where companies such as NXP are continuously introducing new connectivity and security products for new vehicles. The new standards require the presence of a massive amount of electronics in the vehicles and manufacturers are struggling to reduce their footprint and cost.

Also new networks are required to take advantage of some of the new connectivity. Until the arrival of the upcoming 5G networks some of the features will be severely limited, especially the ones providing new levels of safety. Without the speed and low-latency of the new networks, complete autonomous driving will be impossible in cities. Once we have the new generation of connectivity in place and all cars are equipped with C2X technologies, something that many experts suggest it will happen at the end of the next decade, things such as traffic lights and parking valets will be obsolete.

"[...]if a system has advanced technology and lacks traffic lights, it moves control from the [traffic] flow level to the vehicle level. Doing that, you can create a system that is much more efficient, because then you can make sure the vehicles get to the intersection exactly when they have a slot" said Paolo Santi, Senseable City Laboratory, MIT, co-author of the paper "Revisiting Street Intersections" published last month.

Security will be a bigger issue. The hacking of connected vehicles has already been demonstrated, and security is one of the most discussed topics today. Fortunately, the industry has become much more proactive than reactive in their effort to secure connected devices. In a world where cars will be more autonomous, and the infrastructure will send the information to make driving decisions, any threat to the infrastructure could also cause serious trouble.

As NXP CEO Rick Clemmer said during an interview at the Mobile World Congress: "It is about how we take that technology and computing, and the security, to be able to make all of our lives easier, but also make it safe."