Imagine: You get into the family car and it knows that it’s you, so it adjusts everything just the way you like it. You start driving and your GPS is superimposed over the road in real time from within your windshield, with virtual arrows pointing to your next turn. Kids play games on their touchscreen windows in the back, and everyone travels safely as their cars anticipate accidents…

Sound far-fetched? Work is already being done to make things like these a reality, and Intel has now announced their stake in the future of connected, and eventually autonomous, automobiles.

Intel’s new automotive computing platform

Ensuring that every device in our lives is always connected seems like the goal of many companies going forward, and the “Internet of Things” is a very real, and rapidly growing, part of the business world. Intel is no exception, and since cars are things (as I’ve been informed) it makes sense to look in this area as well, right? Well, Intel has announced development of their automotive initiative, with the overall goal to create safer – and eventually autonomous – cars. Doug Davis, Corporate VP, Internet of Things Group at Intel, hosted the online event, which began with a video depicting automotive travel in a fully connected world. It doesn’t seem that far away…

“We are combining our breadth of experience in consumer electronics and enterprise IT with a holistic automotive investment across product development, industry partnerships and groundbreaking research efforts,” Davis said. “Our goal is to fuel the evolution from convenience features available in the car today to enhanced safety features of tomorrow and eventually self-driving capabilities.”

So how exactly does this work? The tangible element of Intel’s vision of connected, computer controlled vehicles begins with the In-Vehicle Solutions Platform which provides Intel silicon to automakers. And as it’s an “integrated solution” Intel points out that this should cut time and expense from the current, more complex methods employed in assembling automotive computer systems. Makes sense, since they are delivering a complete Intel Atom based system platform, powered by the E3800 processor. The OS is Tizen IVI (“automotive grade” Linux). A development kit was also announced, and there are already companies creating systems using this platform, according to Intel.

As to how this tech might translate into safer cars in the future, Davis referred to the “Smart infrastructure” concept: “We’re seeing the evolution of intelligence in highway cameras…the ability to recognize what is about to happen.” This information would then be put into a format that can be integrated into these “visionary” applications, and research into vehicle to vehicle communications to avoid accidents is underway. Davis said to “expect these technologies to emerge in the near future”.

Of course there’s something just a little bit creepy about everything in our lives being connected 24/7, and some of us are opposed to constant data collection. The other aspect of this announcement, the “Personal Vehicle Experience Research Project” uses anthropologic research – and lots of sensor data – to study how we operate our cars and what we do inside of them. This work is being done in the research and development stage at Intel, so nothing consumer-facing just yet to worry about.

This announcement demonstrates some interesting uses of small, low power, and always connected computing. But we are talking about the auto industry. These ideas won’t be implemented overnight. Intel is already “inside” BMW, Infinity, Hyundai and KIA, so we’ll see how adoption of these new initiatives goes in the near future.