Many years ago, car predictions focused on what near-future vehicles would look like. Would they be bigger or smaller and how fast would they get from 0 to 60 mph?

But today, as modern automobiles have evolved to moving machines bristling with sensors, software, processors and networks, future predictions are all about technology. So, what are the likely features for connected cars and their environment in 2016 and what are the major trends on the horizon ?

It’s All About Personalization

Cars will be much more personalized in 2016, thanks to algorithms and context-aware software.

Besides promoting easier and safer driving, this trend will manifest in applications that will answer queries and provide assistance in identifying the nearest parking place, the best place to have dinner and optimal routes..

This might sound similar to what our smartphones can do but it’s actually a big step beyond. Context awareness and learning algorithms will enable cars to differentiate between a work day — when getting to meetings on time and finding the closest parking lot or a valet are paramount — versus personal time, when we might be willing to make different choices. For instance, find a cheaper parking spot that minimizes walking time or locate your closest favorite restaurant.

Another aspect of personalization expected in the industry is the car’s ability to act like their drivers. The driver’s persona and preferences – to be more specific their avatar – can be moved from car to car. Cars will understand and adapt to their driver’s behavior and preferences. This trend ties with the way millennials prefer to opt for car sharing or leasing instead of buying a vehicle.

Car manufacturers will start selling solutions that enable taking that avatar from car to car, just like we do with music playlists as we move from iPhone to Mac to iPad.

The Birth Of Algorithm-based Everything

Intelligent technology is the driver of personalization, but this is just one aspect of how smart software will move into the vehicle world. Year 2016 will see the start of algorithm-driven businesses in which companies will focus on offering flexibility and personalization in all aspects of their services.

In automotive insurance, as an example, machine learning algorithms will predict insurance premium based on an individual’s driving abilities and behavior as well as the driving conditions for the area.

We will also see an evolution in algorithm-based vehicle pricing such as Kelley’s Blue Books with better valuation of used car pricing based on a broader set of information describing the car. This will allow buyers and sellers to make better-informed decisions about their future vehicle choices.

And soon we will have the first algorithm-based vehicle warranties that will help the buyers better assess the true value and relationship to driving patterns and driving style. Based on machine learning, these new warranties will reward drivers for their behavior on the road.

Predictive maintenance is another soon-to-occur capability from smart software. Users will be offered preventive measures they should undertake for maintaining their vehicle’s health. In fact, this is just one of the predictive services, which will flourish for connected cars. The software will suggest actions required for continuing a car’s smooth functioning.

Ethernet Reaches The Car

Having a single network — the Ethernet — in the car will be a big disruptor. To begin with, it will be applied in areas like infotainment audio and video, highly impacting the content available in the car. But the real significance is down the road a bit. Next year, we expect every major OEM to be working on Ethernet architectures. This technology will start showing up in 2018 vehicles and will soon become the standard vehicle architecture.

Streaming movies in the car is fun to imagine but there are other important reasons to move to an Ethernet connection. Today, the Controller Area Network (CAN) is the main communications bus in the car and operates at just one megabit per second. But there are many networks in a vehicle — for bluetooth, audio, backup camera — and all these networks weigh in at fifteen to twenty pounds of wiring, impacting the mileage per gallon of the vehicle.

Imagine the benefits of moving from one megabit to gigabits of network speed in the vehicle. Cars need speed to handle capabilities like automatic braking in case of hazards and other features, and looking further, this is a must-have technology for the semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles that with collect and process data from a large array of radars, cameras and other sensors.

The Car Will Retort

Next year, not only will your car receive software updates over the air (OTA) like your mobile phone in order to e.g. improve fuel efficiency through the latest and greatest releases, it will also be able to share information about user patterns and driving. This data will start going back to the cloud and give car manufacturers and app makers a world of information and the drivers a superior driving and owning experience.

This is not that futuristic when you consider that Tesla, through its beta software for autopilot, is already collecting data from real-life scenarios of driving customers. General Motors is doing similar things with OnStar, collecting data on infotainment and other parts of the vehicle, to improve its products.

Collected data can help manufacturers expand vehicle “testing” by sending back valuable data on how car systems and software respond under black ice, a curvy road, in a tornado or heavy rain. All this can help improve future cars.

But this will show up in the infotainment systems, too. For example, if OEMs see that Pandora isn’t being used a lot, they might push down Spotify instead because they’ll get data on user preferences.

Safety First — Security Will Be Big

Universal security solutions won’t appear in 2016 but there will be many ingenious solutions available in 2016 that will begin to target how we can protect every layer of the car. Alas, they won’t be integrated but will be available from each vendor separately. A couple of interesting areas are new autopilot systems, controlling the trajectory of a vehicle without driver involvement and in-car proximity sensors that enable avoidance of collisions and accidents.

One of the most significant security areas will be an effort to quantify the level of security in each manufacturers’ products through their own safety ratings. With security being a hot topic today, we’ll see vendors offering three-point security or five-star security or some kind of certification, perhaps from third parties, designed to boost consumer confidence.

Certainly, having two-way communications in vehicles creates nervousness about security hacks and data privacy, thus vendors will be upping their efforts in these areas. The goal of all the companies involved in vehicle security solutions will be to convert your car into a personalized, safe environment like your home or office.

Featured Image: Bill Ward/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

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The Top Five Trends For The Connected Car In 2016