Automotive > Powertrain, Body, Chassis & Safety Blog

Wearable Transportation within Our Reach

by Roger Lanctot | Aug 29, 2013

Watching “Iron Man 3” on multiple United westbound flights recently it suddenly hit me like a bolt out of the blue – what consumers really want is wearable transportation.  We spend all our time as gurus and industry analysts carrying on about the disruptive impact of Tesla, Google and Apple, but we’ve missed a fundamental paradigm shift in our thinking about cars and all other forms of transportation.  What if we could bring our wheels with us?

I know, I know, we can’t have 200M Tony Starks flying around.  If that were to happen we’d need an entirely new level of vehicle-to-vehicle communication to prevent collisions.  But the idea of bringing your wheels with you wherever you go is a powerful one.  I wish I had my own wheels with me right now – rental cars can be expensive!

Imagine if it were true, though!  (“Honey!  Have you seen my car?”  “It’s in the hall closet where you left it last night!”  “Thanks!”)

The reality is that we are tantalizingly close to this possibility and that possibility resides in our pockets or the palms of our hands.  Today’s smartphone has the power to bring all of our personal attributes with us into any moving vehicle transforming any vehicle into our own personal space.

Companies like Covisint, Airbiquity, Panasonic and others are diligently working to enable a smartphone-based experience that will render portable all of our personal information, preferences, appointments and applications to be brought to life remotely in different vehicles – even, perhaps, in public conveyances.  The technologies that will enable this Tony Stark-like experience are wired and wireless connections and cloud-based applications that will create the secure portability of one’s personal identification along with communications policies and protocols and commerce – all voice-driven and maybe even interfaced to the user’s thoughts.

This prospect is just far enough off on the horizon that the initial manifestations – USB ports and Bluetooth connections in rental cars – are but crudes hints at what is possible.  But combine seamless connectivity with proliferating dashboard and head-up displays and ongoing advances in speech recognition and, yes, thought control of vehicle systems (Freer Logic) and you begin to get the idea that wearable transportation – the combination of portable technology with transportation – is not nearly as farfetched as Robert Downey Jr. propelling himself into space in a wearable rocket ship.

Now excuse me while I check my Nokia 920 after-burners – don’t want to flame out during re-entry this morning.

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