Revved Up for Some Really Smart Cars
Our future automobiles -- and some current ones -- will be more tuned in to our connected worlds.
January 15, 2010 by Arlen Schweiger

“Play artist, Michael Bolton.” Remember the TV car commercial line, and the driver’s “Play artist, Korn” retort? How cool to know you could pick a song while driving and not have to fiddle with the controls. (Check out the video below for a refresher.)

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) thought it was pretty cool, too. But the trade organization thinks that’s only the beginning. It envisions the automobile as another connected component of your electronic house.

“As Internet connectivity infuses the vehicle platform, the car will finally be linked to other consumer electronics … adding a new dimension to [consumer electronics],” says the CEA’s Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis, in his essay on the connected car as one of 5 Technology Trends to Watch for in 2010.

GM’s OnStar represents one area of connectivity: instant safety and security assistance. This type of proprietary, embedded “vehicle-centric” system is known as “telematics,” says Koenig. According to research cited by CEA, e-call telematics was installed in 22 percent of cars produced in North America in 2009, and is expected to grow to 48 percent by 2015.

The other main type of connected system is more like the Ford Sync function of the Michael Bolton-Korn commercial. The CEA says these “consumer-centric” services are poised to take off. Bluetooth technology was in 15 percent of 2009 North American-produced vehicles, and that will skyrocket to 80 percent by 2015, followed closely by connected portable music players/USB devices (72 percent).

What also comes to mind when we consider connected devices is the web. Whether it’s accessing Internet radio stations, YouTube, Gmail or Facebook, your car will embrace the Internet soon enough. Koenig calls it a “fourth screen” dashboard device—after TV, computer and mobile phone screens—likely to follow the lead of implementations like Apple’s Apps Store for the iPhone and iPod touch.

However, a main driver of such car fun, the “Advanced Wireless” technology, is to be forecast in only 5 percent of North American vehicles by 2015.

Koenig notes that products and services like the Autonet Mobile Wi-Fi router and Continental’s recently introduced AutoLinQ infotainment solution allow for constant web access and personalized, downloadable content.

This driver will be happy to plug into 12,000 Internet radio stations in my next vehicle. I just hope Twitter- or Facebook-related accidents don’t become a trend.


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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for and Electronic House magazine.

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