Connected: An editor abroad

At this very moment, I find myself writing the Editor's Notebook from a hotel room in Paris, France. As of a week ago, I didn't even have the trip on my calendar, but last minute travel isn't completely uncommon for the job. 

With the last minute travel arrangements and hectic events that got me to my hotel room, it reminds me of how accessible and connected the world has become, and how strange it is that I've already come to expect it.

It took me approximately 10 minutes to get technologically prepared for the trip. A quick log-in to my phone carrier account to add a Global Package ensured my phone never skipped a beat when it crossed the Atlantic. A call to my bank ensured my credit card wouldn't be denied at the cafe this afternoon. And, with a simple check of my airline's app, I was able to track the connecting flight that I very nearly missed. One humbling sprint through two concourses, a vow to start using my elliptical again, and an awkward and breathless flag down to the attendants about to close the door to the jet bridge, and I was on my way to Paris. One more quick check of the airline's app ensured that not only did I make my flight, but so had my luggage. 

It's those amenities and assurances that have really changed how I see the world around me. It's ease of accessibility makes international travel almost (almost) as easy as domestic travel—minus the horrendously long Customs lines...I'm looking at you Charles de Gaulle airport. 

But I also remember that it really wasn't that long ago (okay, 15 years may be a long time ago), when an international trip meant calling cards filled with minutes to make from pay phones, travelers checks to exchange, and printing off your travel pictures when you got home to show your friends and family.

It's these same connectivity luxuries that we've now come to expect with our interactions with all technology. Does it make my life easier? Does it help me accomplish my task faster? If it doesn't offer a convenience or service, what's the point? 

The expectation of the owner/operator has shifted permanently to high tech, interactive connectivity features through telematics and GNSS systems coupled together with on-board sensors and data acquisition systems. We all now know the term Big Data—used to describe the inundation of data gathered and stored from the vehicle during its operation—and the hope that collecting all of these terabytes of information will eventually bring to light new opportunities to add value to the vehicle's design, manufacturing process, performance and functionality. 

Beyond the ease of interaction between human and machine, technology has established a new level of expectation for smart machine performance within the vehicle itself. In this issue you'll find several examples of smart technologies and systems bringing new levels of optimization to overall performance, as well as more forward progress in the world of vehicle automation.