The connected car: how it all started


The road for the connected car

We are accustomed to one particular environment: the city. It’s natural for us to see cars going down the road every day in quick succession, to see them wait for the green light, swerve at corners, get stuck in a traffic jam. It’s natural for us to think of cars travelling from one place to another: A and B, the beginning and the end of a journey. All that we do can be seen in terms of a road: our deeds, lives, existence, history. And we need to travel on this road. A great way to do it is by means of  connected cars. You might wonder, however, what is the road for the connected car? What’s its starting point?

The connected car: from A to B

The roots of connected cars can be seen, as Swami Krishnan puts it, in the “initial motivation for introducing electronics in an auto-vehicle” with the purpose of gaining digital engine control. So, as he highlights, it could have all started back in the 1980’s, when electronics were starting to be introduced in the vehicle.

However, I think we should link the emergence of the connected cars to that of smartphones and the mobile Internet. Our expectations are being constantly shaped for an on-the-go access to data. The automobile is viewed increasingly in a permanently connected system. Car-producers have realized that they need to satisfy their customers’ desire for Web access even on the road. There is the urge for the location-based service, up-to-date maps and real-time traffic information.

It’s highly expected that our expectation for accessing digital content while on the road will continue to grow. By 2016 a key factor in buying a car will be the in-vehicle access to Web. By 2017 new research shows that 90 million vehicles, that’s about 20% of consumer cars in North America and Eastern Europe, will gain app-capability due to the increased integration of smartphones into the car dashboard system.

The present for the connected car

While the initial boom in connected cars development and design can be seen linked to that of smartphones, we cannot say where the technological break-through and speedy discoveries will lead when it comes to these smart-cars.

Even so, let me introduce you to a few outstanding innovations of the present:

  • Apple’s CarPlay, which was announced this march. It is not an “iOS in the car”, as its functionality is still in your smartphone. Using a USB cable you integrate it with your car’s digital system. CarPlay shows up on a screen, in which app icons focused on things such as infotainment, maps, location-finding services and voice calls are displayed. It is going to be available this year from Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes and Volvo.
  • Self-driving cars. Google has already made advances with “driver-less” cars, but Nissan is the first major manufacturer to commit to production, potentially by 2020.
  • Many car manufacturers have had their own in-built connectivity system for a while now. Some, such as Cadillac, will retain their own systems.

See A as the starting point for the connected car. The road on which it travels and we travel with it, enjoying worldly connection, stretches far into our future. You can say  point B is where we stand today, but it is also placed in the no-land of tomorrow.

What do you think the future has in store for the connected car?

Philipp Kandal