“1998 Dec 4, The first PC for the car, made by Clarion Co., went on sale for $1,299. It used a Microsoft operating system and responded to voice commands to change radio stations and CDs, check e-mail, and use global positioning.”
It should come as no surprise that car manufacturers are embracing autonomy in the same way that industrial machine builders are. The car manufacturing process is on the forefront of developing more ways to automate production, by implementing better ANDON systems, and even by tracking individual component parts for quicker and more efficient recalls and shipping logistics. There are good reasons that the automotive industry is one of the primary drivers (pardon the pun) in the Industrial Internet of Things (IioT) market. But the automotive industry isn’t only implementing next-wave automation in factories; they’re putting it in the cars themselves.
Now that every car comes equipped with PCs to monitor and control critical data like tire pressure, engine status, and fluid and fuel volumes, it makes sense to create interfaces that can communicate this data effectively. The very idea of a ‘dashboard’ comes from our long history with the automobile industry. The industrial automation industry and the automotive industry have always had a strong shared background in using and implementing better processes for monitoring and controls.
Infotainment systems now come standard in a wide variety of economy to luxury cars. Bluetooth connectivity now connects almost any enabled phone to the car’s radio system, and hands-free calling is an option on many newer-model cars. Some higher-end models may include vision systems for backup cameras and blind-spot detectors, or overhead rear screens for viewing media. Touch-screen PCs designed for users are even beginning to embrace haptic feedback as a way to simulate the feel of old analog controls.
It’s easy to see the overlap with industrial automation, which often uses similar imagery and screen navigation to control the machines that operators use on-site.
Both cars and industrial machines are increasingly connected, and the Internet of Things is coming to our personal cars in the same way it’s coming to manufacturing. It’s already possible to unlock car doors via smartphones (or hack them!), just as it’s possible to control industrial machines from hundreds of miles away using remote HMIs. The Internet of Things will play an integral role in the autonomous cars being developed by companies like Google and Volvo. In order to operate, an autonomous car must make use of dozens of integrated systems – maps, vision systems, internal controls, external updates on road conditions and local speed limits and legal driving patterns, etc. In the same way, the machines of the future will be connected at the component level to further automate production, or even packing or parts procurement.
Car infotainment and dashboard controls also share the same embedded components used in industrial automation. For example, many car infotainment systems run on versions of Windows CE or Windows Embedded, which are systems that InduSoft Web Studio has supported from the beginning. In fact, InduSoft Web Studio has already been used to help a drag racing car set world records:
Tools like InduSoft Web Studio can be used inside embedded machinery like a car’s infotainment system, or as the SCADA solution of a large-scale manufacturing site because of the scalability that allows a system built around InduSoft Web Studio to include as much or as little functionality as needed, and act as a gateway between a few, or dozens of disparate systems. It’s difficult to comprehend how far we’ve come in fewer than 20 years.