Jose A. Alvarez, Dae-oong Kim, Natalie Luu, Isaac Yi
Professor Clifford Nass
March 13, 2013
The Digital Revolution has reached a state of consistent connection – consumers no longer expect or tolerate restrictions to physical desks or computers. The emergence of cloud technology now provides users with the convenience of accessing their digital information anytime and anywhere. After years of implementing a cloud infrastructure for use with desktops, laptops, and mobile devices, we believe the time has come to expand cloud technology into new areas.
With relatively modest advancements like rear-view cameras and live services such as OnStar, we believe the automotive industry is a prime adoption target for disruptive technological advancements. Despite the above improvements, vehicular technology remains outdated and ineffective. Car dashboards, the epicenter of the driving experience, feature outdated software and hardware that limit drivers to simple gasoline or temperature monitoring and few entertainment options like well-known music players and navigation systems. More importantly, individuals are currently restricted to the vehicle they own – when a driver uses a different car, all of his or her settings must be completely reset and adapted for distinct hardware. For Generation Y drivers who are infamous for demanding convenience and avoiding direct manual work, it can be difficult enough maintaining and adapting to their own vehicle without having to worry about the challenges that come with purchasing a new vehicle or borrowing a rental car. We believe such hurdles are unacceptable at a time when consumers are being liberated from the restrictions of hardware elsewhere. Nimbus – the cloud car – is our solution to the shackles of vehicle ownership and the deficiencies of current vehicular technology.
Nimbus is cloud-based technology driven off of an application on a mobile device, such as an Apple iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. With the exception of hardware like a chassis, tires, or transmission system, Nimbus encompasses everything that makes an automobile more than a static piece of metal and rubber. Through key features that include real-time vehicle maintenance, a seamless software interface, and full customization of all aspects of the interior driving experience, Nimbus provides a level of convenience and control that has never been seen before in an automobile. Furthermore, with all of the above features driven directly from a mobile device and the underlying cloud-based infrastructure, drivers can have the same driving experience regardless of which vehicular piece of hardware they are seated in. In short, and automotive hardware permitting, Nimbus guarantees that consumers will always be able to drive their own car – Nimbus is the vehicle of the future.
I. Vehicle Ownership
With today’s vehicle, notifications on the dashboard appear when a repair is needed or the oil needs to be changed. In some cars, the driver is not notified when the car needs to fixed. Most notifications are vague and unclear as to what they mean at first glance. Today, there is very little transparency between the driver and car’s general health. Nimbus’ technology close that gap and make it simple for driver to find out that status of their vehicle.
Nimbus monitors the vehicle’s live, up-to-date, legal and technical information. This includes the constant tracking of the vehicle’s hardware health (e.g. brake pads) and fluid monitoring (e.g. oil change). Nimbus tracks, in real-time, everything already displayed on an existing primitive dashboard, such as mileage and the amount of gas in the tank. Because drivers often forget when their legal sticker expires, Nimbus also has a feature that will store the vehicle’s legal information and remind the driver when documents need to be renewed. All this data collected by Nimbus can be viewed from the driver’s mobile phone.
Vehicles today already have some kind of feedback system that monitors all aspects of the car’s health. However, the main issue is that drivers cannot understand the notifications on the dashboard or that some parts of the car do not broadcast a signal identifiable by the driver. Nimbus seamlessly integrates with the vehicle by capturing all of this information into one place and makes it available through a simple interface for the driver. Nimbus also can store any legal information and allow drivers to access it from their mobile phone or online.
By having easy access to live information about their vehicles, drivers are better prepared for events where knowing the car’s health and legal information is important. This is especially important in accidents with other drivers and interactions with highway patrol. Being prepared for events such as these also prevents the driver from encountering complicated situations such as these in the first place. Nimbus eliminates driver uncertainty, increases safety and reduces the chance of unexpected vehicle problems.
Charlie is trying to drive to work, but notices that his car is having trouble starting. A quick alert from Nimbus lets Charlie know that his alternator is faulty and requires replacement. Charlie makes a quick trip to the mechanic before work, knowing exactly what his problem is and what needs to be fixed.
II. Software Integration
With the advent of brilliant touch-screen computers, tablets and phones, the disparity between primitive automotive interfaces and existing technology in other devices is quite surprising. Using primitive technology, the automotive interface consists mostly of physical buttons. For some vehicles with a small touch-screen display for GPS, the technology that powers the built-in GPS is behind most mobile phone navigation applications. Nimbus eliminates this disparity and makes the vehicle as limited as the software that powers it.
Nimbus provides the driver with the software infrastructure and capabilities to leverage a vehicle’s digitized dashboard. With the ability to access any smart device wirelessly, Nimbus allows the driver to access the device directly from the dashboard. This expands the dashboard functionality, adding both existing automotive interface features to the functionality of the projected device.
To use Nimbus’ software platform, vehicles must initially be functional hardware. We believe in the near future, vehicles should be completely programmable and digital. Vehicles should simply be a piece of hardware that is powered by Nimbus. Every part of the vehicle’s interface -- dashboard, music player, air conditioning, etc. -- should be digital.
Drivers constantly multitask while driving, as shown by many driving laws prohibiting the use of cell phones or listening to music with headphones. In search of a place to have a meal with friends, drivers will access applications on their phone such as Yelp or Google Maps. This is dangerous while drivers are expected to focus on the road and be aware of their surroundings. Nimbus increases driver safety by integrating these applications with the vehicle. All functionality of a smart device that would otherwise distract the driver from focusing on driving can be accessed from the vehicle dashboard. Not only does Nimbus seamlessly integrate the vehicle with the driver’s smart device, but it also creates opportunities for vehicle interface software developers.
Now Charlie is grabbing lunch, but has no idea where to go. Using Nimbus' seamless integration with his vehicle, he can access his Yelp application directly from his dashboard, leveraging the Nimbus software with the digitized vehicle hardware.
III. Device-Powered Customization
With the growth in shared economy, companies like Zipcar, Wheelz, and Car2go are popping left and right as well as the customers. Right now, Zipcar users have grown to nearly a million users and other companies are also gaining a large number of users. As the ability to share and rent cars become increasingly available, people will find Nimbus’ customization function extremely useful.
What Nimbus allows is for people to get inside a rented or shared car and use/interact with the car just like they would do with their personal car. What that means is a user can customize the setting and configuration of a dashboard, navigation, seat/steering wheel setting, A/C, multimedia player, etc inside any supporting car. The user simply powers up the car, open up the Nimbus application on the smart device, and sync the automotive interface over Bluetooth. Nimbus can set any interface in a car to the user’s preference, ultimately, making every car you drive a personal car.
Now any car sharing/rental company that chooses to use Nimbus will have the dashboard technology set so that it can seamlessly integrate with the Nimbus application on a smart device. In the near future when a common base dashboard technology platform is in place in the automotive industry, this installation process will take very little time. The main purpose of this installation will be for seamless integration and security protection. Understanding the security concerns of the automotive manufacturers, Nimbus will be installed in an uninvasive/add-on manner. With the installation in place, users will simply need to open up the Nimbus application on a smart device and sync it with the car. Once the defined interface setting and configuration appear on the dashboard, the user can further adjust it on either the smart device screen or the dashboard.
The ability to have a driver’s own customized dashboard in any car he/she drives is extremely beneficial to any car sharing/rental company. This familiarity gives the driver ease of access and safety to any shared/rented car. Ease of access because the driver will know exactly how to operate any car, and consequently safety for the same reason. This ultimately gives genuine pleasure to using the car sharing/rental services; having the best of both worlds (private & public transportation).
At the end of his day, Charlie notices that his mechanic did not do an adequate job and his car alternator is completely dead. To get home, he needs to rent a new car. Thanks to Nimbus, although he is driving home in a different car, it feels exactly the same because all of his customized settings and technological affordances are still at his fingertips.
Number of rental car and car sharing companies are increasing year by year. Starting in 2009 with 300 thousand users, Zipcar has more than doubled the number of its users in the next two years. Carsharing companies and the users of the service keep increasing to this day. Total number for members of carsharing service has increased fourfold from 2004 to 2008 and has been steadily growing ever since then.
As increasing number of people rent and share cars, the need for a car that takes less ‘getting used to’ will become more and more valuable. With Nimbus’s technology, the experience of driving a rented car is not different from driving your own car. Also, in getting to know the status of the car, it is as easy as looking it up on your smartphone. All the information regarding driving and maintenance records is transparently stored and is available from your own mobile device. Such technology will enable accessing of your car’s data from anywhere and provide better
In fact, there are already a number of companies working on the technology enabling real-time access to your car’s data. Carvoyant, CarMD, RepairPal are some of the companies that offer plug-in devices that capture and analyze the data stream from the car’s computer. Audi is also working on making it possible to access the emission data and GPS tracking of your car through your phone. All of the above-mentioned companies are convinced by the vision of enabling better driving experience through more personalization of your car and transparency of the car’s data. Nimbus brings all of these technologies together to bring about the ultimate personalization of driving experience.