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Online on the road

Most of us are by now used to electronics playing a big part in our lives. The smart phone is with us always and when we are at home we are often found online using our tablet or laptop. Cars too have been becoming more technological but now they are set also to go online.

Most of us are by now used to electronics playing a big part in our lives. The smart phone is with us always and when we are at home we are often found online using our tablet or laptop. Cars too have been becoming more technological but now they are set also to go online. Major manufacturers are betting billions that the connected car is the next step and some analysts are predicting that all new cars will have an Internet connection by 2014. The new wave of web-enabled motors is being driven by the so-called app culture, where apps are being used in areas useful for drivers. Examples include parking space finders and location specific services like vouchers that pop up for nearby restaurants.

Clearly these apps require the car to be connected to the Internet. Technology is also being developed to minimise typing and tapping, substituting voice commands instead. Already technology analysts are saying that the connected car is the third fastest growing area of the technology market, behind those smart phones and tablets. Motor industry analyst Jack Berquist of IHS commented: "Ford has categorically stated that this is selling more cars for them. Over 50% of consumers would be swayed by the presence of an internet-capable device." The crossover between enhanced information services and entertainment is becoming known as 'infotainment'.

Entertainment apps are already being used in areas like social media and streaming music but there are also more practical packages. There are apps, for example, to show local petrol stations and compare their prices. Other apps guide the driver to vacant parking spaces in some major cities. Other uses attempt to curb frustration by telling drivers how long it will take for the traffic light they are stopped at to change. Bergquist continues: "By the end of 2014, for some of the bigger brands, every vehicle they sell will offer some sort of connectivity. If you look at a cost to design a completely new car model, some companies are spending around a third of the budget just on the in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) and the in-car technology around the system."

Clearly most of this content could be delivered to a smart phone but it is against the law to use a hand held device like this while driving. It is therefore necessary to connect the car itself to these services and the wider web. Some observers though are questioning the move, pointing out that around 25% of car accidents involve some sort of mobile phone use and predicting that such apps could increase driver distraction.

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Back to August 2013

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