Enhancing vehicle safety with cognitive Internet of Things technology

Senior Writer/Editor, Local Motors

Since building its first prototype car right on the floor of the Detroit Auto Show in January 2015, Local Motors has focused its efforts on producing a highway-ready 3D-printed car by 2017. We may not be in 2017 yet, but Local Motors’ progress since the Detroit Auto Show has been nothing short of remarkable.

Creating safe interactions

In July 2015, the Phoenix-based automobile manufacturer and technology firm designed its second prototype, then built the vehicle to completion two months later. When Local Motors introduced the second prototype to the world, at IBM Insight 2015, the vehicle deeply impressed both consumers and the larger automotive community. And small wonder—Local Motors has emphasized the power of direct digital manufacturing (DDM) and co-creation since the company’s inception.

The question is no longer one of possibility—whether a road-ready 3D-printed car can be made—but rather one of driver and passenger safety. Local Motors is testing its designs with an eye to meeting or exceeding the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but a smart, connected car is a safer car, and that is where the Internet of Things (IoT) comes into play. LM3D series vehicles, interactions between the car, its driver and the surrounding environment help drive proactive safety measures designed to prevent accidents rather than simply mitigate them. University of California cognitive scientists David Kirsh and Paul Maglio call such interactions epistemic actions. For example, even when a connected vehicle doesn’t know where you intend to go, it can warn you about the inclement weather that you will encounter should you continue on your current course—and such capabilities are just the tip of the iceberg.

Driving automotive manufacturing forward

According to NHTSA data, more than 800,000 car accidents occur in the United States each year simply because drivers fail to check their blind spots. In a connected car, however, blind spot detection can help drivers know when they can safely change lanes and can warn drivers of imminent collisions. More broadly, connected cars can mitigate a range of risks posed by human error, whether by enabling hands-free text messaging or voice capabilities for GPS. By doing these things and more, smart vehicles can cut out distractions, allowing drivers to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the steering wheel.

The future of automotive manufacturing lies in safe, smart and sustainable vehicles, and that future is coming to life at Local Motors thanks to DDM, co-creation and IoT and cognitive technology.