Currently the must-have coding skill for developers is Mobile. It’s blown up over the last few years and with the growing use of Mobiles for shopping and the multitude of platform requirements it’s only going to continue to grow. However, looking out longer term, Car Coding is the future.
We’ve had computers in our cars for a long time, but three parallel events make me think that Car Coding is the next big thing.
1) Electric Cars (or more specifically Elon Musk).
Electric cars had an attempt at taking over in the 80′s but for a bunch of reasons it didn’t work out. With Elon Musk at the helm though, Tesla has continued to push the boundaries on what an Electric Car can do. Still, the biggest challenge to public acceptance of these super quiet, super cheap cars is their range. This was keenly demonstrated by a recent scuffle over a New York Times review which was supposed to demonstrate that Teslas newly built network of charging stations would allow the Tesla Model S to easily travel extend distances. Whilst the cars themselves have energy/fuel gauges, Elon has proven himself to be a ruthless innovator and I’m sure he’d want to open them up to 3rd party development. Allowing you to tell whether your car will make the trip before you even step foot in the car is exactly the kind of ease of use that I’m excited about and just the ticket to reassure potential buyers.
2) The Internet Of Things
The idea of having lots of devices communicating with each other is hardly a new thing, but it’s taking bigger, faster steps towards becoming a reality everyday. Gone are the Tweeting fridges, and instead we’ve got self watering plants, smart thermostats, wifi lights and more. While this array of gadgets serves you well when you’re at home or in the office, when you get in the car it’s all eyes on the road. So how do you make sure there are no distractions. We’ve already seen a surge in cars with integrated hands free and voice controlled stereos, imagine if your car interfaced with your To-Do list, saw that you were running 20 minutes ahead of your usual time to get home and suggested a nearby detour for that dry cleaning you forgot yesterday? Or noticed that you had some extra space in the boot/trunk and suggested that now might be a good time to pick up that jumbo pack of dog food and guess what, Pet’s World has a discount on Today!
3) Google Cars
In June 2011 Nevada passed laws allowing for driver-less cars. Since then Google has been working hard on creating automated, driver-less cars and they’ve had huge success. They’ve logged over 300,000 miles with only two accidents, both of which were human error. It’s such a great idea that Toyota has jumped in too. All of which means that in the next 5 years, I expect us to regularly see automated cars on our streets.
This means three things.
- We’re going to want route planning to become a lot more intelligent. Google maps is an amazing invention and I have no doubt it’s just going to keep getting smarter and smarter. But the risks of getting maps wrong are truly life or death in some countries. Knowing and being able to alter your route will be crucial. There have already been some really interesting hacks created from big data, an area rife for experimentation here.
- We’re going to have a lot more free time on our hands. Once we get used to it, with someone else driving we’ll be able to work, talk, watch videos and just generally do a lot more while driving. I imagine that auto driving won’t be the norm on all roads, so that switch over point is when we’re going to have to rapidly put away our toys and get back to driving. That switch could happen several times in the span of an hour’s commute and it’s going to have to be instant – which might mean new ways of working/watching movies.
- We’re going to have to trust out cars more. For some people that will mean taking a look under the hood and seeing the code powering the car. With current semi-mechanical cars we like to think that whatever happens you could always just break hard and that would override the electronics, but the reality is a bit scarier than that. Just ask Frank Lecerf who was trapped in his car for over an hour as it increased to a top speed of 125mph and stayed there until it ran out of gas 200km later.
So the question is how do you start? Well, that’s a tricky one. It’s going to be a combination of hardware hacking, big data and communications so I’d start there. Arduino’s popularity and the Raspberry Pi will both be great jumping off points. Beyond that your best bet is the same as it is for most things – just start. Go out there, get your hands on something that interfaces with your car and start learning.