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The Cloud Comes to Your Car

During the week you drive to work at fairly low speeds in stop-and-go traffic. You don’t need a lot of power but you would like to improve your fuel efficiency. On the weekend, however, you hook your big boat to the same car and trailer it to the beach. Now you want more power even if that means poorer gas mileage.

What to do? Traditionally, you might buy a car or truck that could handle the heaviest load you expected to carry. For hauling a boat, that means a big, powerful car. During the week, as you commute to work, much of that power is unused and wastes a lot of gasoline.

As the cloud comes to your car, you’ll have an alternative. Think of today’s cars as complex software systems mounted on wheels.  You can “tweak” the software to get more power or more fuel efficiency or some other characteristic. As cloud computing evolves, your car will communicate with “horsepower servers” that can set and re-set the performance characteristics of your car. Need more fuel efficiency? Just send some instructions to the cloud and get your software tweaked. Want to set a speed limit for your son? Just ask the “speed server” to set a limit whenever he logs in as the driver.

Cars are becoming computers.  We can already see this in a crude way with the “sports” setting available in many cars. Push the “sports” button and you get stiffer suspension and slightly more horsepower.  Turn it off and you get a cushier ride and better fuel economy.  Soon, we’ll see different settings for different drivers and, yes, you will have to log in. We’ll also be able to tweak the software into a virtually unlimited number of combinations.

Cloud cars could bring us more convenience and, potentially, much better fuel efficiency as you match performance to changing requirements. It can also create some nasty security concerns. What happens if you car gets a virus? More on that in the coming weeks.

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