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automotive IT

Contributor(s): Laura Fitzgibbons

Automotive IT is any hardware or software designed to augment and support the experience of operating a motor vehicle. New improvements and integrations in the automotive technology world are increasingly being implemented as the industry realizes the importance of data to a vehicle operator. Equipping automobiles with readily available information means redesigning features ranging from engine systems to central consoles in order to accommodate the evolution. Automotive IT can also involve linking devices already in use by the typical user, such as smartphones or on-call safety programs, to the vehicle to minimize overlap. Common goals of automotive IT include streamlined key entry, ease of use, fuel efficiency, entertainment and safety.

Automotive IT is not an official designation and there are no standards that vendors must conform to apart from federal safety standards. Automotive technicians typically work on the mechanical aspects of cars such as oil changes and brake repair. However, with automotive IT, they also may attain knowledge to troubleshoot more modern features, keep software updated and streamline systems.

Examples of automotive IT

Autopilot safety mode
This feature allows the driver to give the car permission to operate on its own if a collision is imminent. 

Charging apparatus
In an electric car, charging hardware can include the input port in the vehicle, any necessary connectors, and a power source.

Computerized diagnostics
Mechanics and automobile owners can determine the health of the parts and systems in their automobile by hooking up a professional digital scanner and running computerized on-board diagnostics.

Distress buttons
Vehicles often come equipped with a button that alerts first responders if a collision occurs or an airbag is deployed. 

Driverless and driver-assist features
Vehicles can use computer software, cameras and sensors to operate fully autonmously.

Forward-facing radar
Forward-facing radar is used as part of collision warning systems.

GPS
Some automobiles connect to the GPS, allowing drivers to determine their geographic location and the exact coordinates of their destination. In systems with built-in screens, the navigation can even be physically displayed to the driver.

Hands-free use of devices
Users can operate their devices or make/answer phone calls using voice commands and a Bluetooth connection to the speaker system.

Keyless or remote keyless entry
For cars with digital locks and remote entry, the driver can hit a button to unlock the vehicle, stand within a certain range and pull on the handle, or even use a cell phone to forward the signal to the car. 

Lane departure detection
Using sensors, some automobiles are able to detect the painted lines in the road and automatically steer to stay within them. 

Over-the-air software updates
For vehicles that run on software systems, the automobile company can push updates to all vehicles at once using over the air (OTA) updates. 

External cameras
Rear, side or forward-facing cameras can help drivers see their surroundings or act as part of various built-in systems that input visual and location data.

Touchscreens
In some vehicles, drivers and passengers can interact with display screens by touching them. 

Ultrasonic sensors
In many vehicles, ultrasonic sensors are used to help with parking and detecting nearby objects.

This was last updated in September 2018

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