Monday, June 4, 2007

Driving Computer Centers

We log into the net from home and from our office. Some log in on the daily commute on the bus or commuter trains. Too many people even log into the net at nightclubs and bars via crackberries. Where else could people possibly log in from? Our cars.

Today’s cars are using more computing technology. While the computer technology is primarily for engines and safety reasons, they are being adapted for other uses such as plugging in your iPod. So why not turn our cars into movable computer centers utilizing a mobile network?

UCLA engineers are working on such a possibility. According to computer science professor Mario Gerla and researcher Giovanni Pau this driving mobile network would just need the relatively low-cost addition of sensors to the vehicle’s roof and bumpers.
They say their mobile networking platform (MANET) would allow ‘moving vehicles within a range of 100 to 300 meters of each other to connect and create a network of cars.’

Mario Gerla explained, “We have all of these computer devices as integrated systems inside our cars. It’s time to extend that concept. Computers are already being installed in many vehicles, and wireless capability will soon follow, so a mobile network deployment would only require the relatively low-cost addition of sensors to the vehicle’s roof and bumpers and configuring the computer with new ‘mobile’ applications.”

Giovanni Pau added that the UCLA’s team was using existing technologies. “We use standard radio protocols such as Digital Short Range Communication, or DSRC, combined with wireless LAN technology to create networks between vehicles equipped with onboard sensing devices. These devices can gather safety-related information, as well as other complex multimedia data, such as video. The most essential aspect of this network is that it is not subject to memory, processing, storage and energy limitations like traditional sensor networks. It relies on the resources of the vehicle itself, along with those vehicles around it.”

Of course, not every driver wants to be part of the network -- privacy is a major concerns. The ULCA team plans to use the first mobile networks in emergency response vehicles such as police cars, ambulances and hazardous materials response units.’

The team has already built a vehicular testing unit to explore these issues and to study car-to-car networking experiments under various traffic conditions and mobility situations. With successful field tests completed, Gerla’s team has further plans to develop a UCLA Campus Vehicle, (or C-VeT) through a wireless testbed environment called WHYNET.”

Some high-end luxury cars already have small computer stations installed in the computer. However advancing technologies will some day make it possible that people will be able to check email using voice recognition, surf the Web and do all of the tasks that are normally done at the office from their cars.

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