The Car as an Ambient Sensing Platform


Sustainability Problem: Safety, Health

The idea of using the car as a data collection device is not new: we have used GPS data to understand problems like traffic congestion and vehicle energy consumption. However, today’s vehicles present sophisticated systems with sensors, digital communications between cars with a vehicle-to-vehicle network, and with the roadside infrastructure with a vehicle-to-infrastructure communication system, as well as embedded computational resources for images and graphics processing. An average car today is equipped with over 4,000 sensors that collect internal and external data. What if we could use this data to improve overall safety on the roads, and better understand driver behavior and the urban environment?

Technology: Car sensing technology

  • For the first time, researchers at MIT in collaboration with Volkswagen are accessing the entire wealth of data exchanged on the controller area network (CAN) bus in near real time at high frequency, and analyzing these data.
  • This was made possible by the connected car paradigm, which allows vehicle CAN bus data to be recorded and wirelessly transmitted to central servers for analysis. Thus, the car sensing dimension, which can be understood as the number of different signals that a vehicle record and make available for data analysis, is increasing from 1 (or a few) to 1000 or above.
  • These data allow fast and accurate sensing of road conditions, which are partly the root cause of accidents.


  • Car industry
  • Drivers
  • Governments/Government Agencies


  • Raise awareness and discuss the security and privacy aspects of the connected car paradigm.
  • Promote transparency about usage of data
  • Analyze research question of which sensor signals to discard, store onboard, or send to a remote server


Suellen Aguiar – ss5195


Comment on another postSmartscooter & Smart Energy Network

Gogoro’s Smartscooter is powered by a removable battery that gives it a range of 60 miles per charge, which is an impressive number for an all-electric bike. It can also pair the electric vehicle with your smartphone to control certain features.




4 thoughts on “The Car as an Ambient Sensing Platform

  1. Perhaps these car sensors will determine if you’re driving near a notoriously bad driver so that you can be on high alert as you’re passing them or they’re passing you. Perhaps sensors will determine that a nearby driver always brakes late, thus your car warns you to maintain X distance behind. Perhaps sensors will lead to every driver having a visible driving rating that you can see in your windshield. Seems like the possibilities are endless.


  2. This technology could also be used in the future to make self-driving cars safer. They could do this by analyzing the other cars in the environment and then be able to brake in time if it senses danger. The cars will be able to forecast dangers and react faster than a human could, and will thus increase the general traffic safety.


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