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It seems like only yesterday that a talking car was strictly science fiction.
You see, as a Boomer of a “certain age,” I vividly recall the 1980s hit TV series “Knight Rider.”
The show featured a 1982 Pontiac Firebird laden with advanced tech systems like artificial intelligence. And of course, the ability to talk with the driver.
Now, more than 32 years after the show ended, this pop-culture icon lives on because of online streaming.
Of course, these talking cars are pretty routine in no small measure than owners often use their smartphones for voice control navigation.
Now comes “talking” highways. Utah and Georgia are experimenting with tech that allows highways to communicate with cars about congestion and road hazards.
None of this would be possible without one of the unsung heroes of high tech -sensors.
Before I give you more details about this exciting tech field, I wanted to let you know that I will be giving an investor presentation for the MoneyShow’s virtual event later this month.
I will be talking about how to own great tech stocks for free. My half-hour talk begins at 10:20 AM EDT on August 18. You can get more details by simply clicking here.
Now then, the unpredictable weather and sharp curves of Utah’s State Route 190 in Big Cottonwood Canyon has led the state’s Department of Transportation to start testing “V2X” technology.
V2X stands for “vehicle to everything,” the idea that cars constantly “talk” to the road, other cars, traffic lights, and other things around them.
According to the Wall Street Journal, cars would be “talking” like this up to 10 times per second. They would be learning from the road itself about what upcoming road conditions are like, whether there are potholes or crashes to avoid, and so on.
Estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggest 80% of car crashes could be prevented or made less severe by V2X. That’s especially true on dangerous roads like Utah’s State Route 190.
Much like a similar project in Georgia that the Journal also covered, Utah’s “talking” highway is meant to save lives, time, and money.
Unfortunately, the Journal completely misses the essential technology behind these “talking” highways. It even gets who does the “talking” wrong.
See, its cars, not highways, that will do most of the talking in Utah and Georgia.
It’s cars that will monitor their speed, whether their windshields are on, how bumpy the road is, what the temperature is, whether the driver is swerving around potholes, and so on.
Not the road.
And up to 10 times per second, cars will send this information to whoever’s listening – other cars, utility poles alongside the road, etc.
The transportation department will then use this information to figure out whether there are potholes, ice, crashes, and other problems, and relay them back to the cars.
In other words, these “talking” highways and V2X would be absolutely impossible without good sensor technology.
A Sensor Society
Without the 60-100 sensors installed in most cars today, we couldn’t have these very advanced features. We’re talking such things as tire pressure warnings, climate control, more efficient engines, automatic braking during emergencies, lane departure warnings, stability control, or airbags.
Just to name a few…
This is particularly true of MEMS, or Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems. Ranging from 0.02 millimeters to 1 millimeter in size, these tiny devices are so microscopic they have to be manufactured using the same methods as the transistors in microchips.
Generally speaking, MEMS convert movement or pressure into electrical energy or vice versa.
In practice, that means MEMS can be made into sensors that check for changes in pressure or acceleration, by turning changes in those into electrical signals sent to a computer.
MEMS like these deploy your airbags when the right mix of deceleration and pressure is detected and slightly tweak how much engine and brake power is sent to each wheel to keep the tires from skidding.
Other MEMS do the reverse and turn electrical signals from a computer into extremely precise movement or force. These minuscule engines are what make inkjet printers and earbuds work.
But cars that tell the road and each other what they’re doing is just one small piece of what MEMS and sensors enable.
They’re also needed for the Internet of Things, which is enabling all manner of devices to “talk” to one another, exchanging information and coordinating action.
As an added benefit, the tiny size of MEMS makes them very low-power devices, crucial to the growth of the Internet of Things.
The Clear Leader in Sensor Tech
STMicroelectronics N.V. (STM), better known as STMicro, is the leader in the MEMS and sensor space. The firm has more than 18,400 patents, 1,000 of which are thought to be in MEMS alone.
In fact, STMicro has a whopping 50% market share in MEMS that detect motion in cars and personal electronics.
But there’s more to STMicro than just sensors.
The company also ranks as Europe’s largest chip firm. And after a restructuring a few years back, the firm is clicking on all cylinders.
And the stock is really starting to pay off for investors.
From the time STM hit bottom on March 18 to its recent closing high on July 20, the stock was up 96%. That’s more than double the S&P 500’s 42% return over the period.
And there’s plenty of upside ahead. STMicro’s earnings per share have grown by an average of 34% over the last three years.
That means they – and the stock – could double in as little as three years.
As you can see, STMicro is a stock that will keep you driving safely and profitably on the road to wealth.
Cheers and good investing,
Michael A. Robinson