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The Web Connected Car: the Future of the Auto Industry or Just a Fad?

February 27, 2013 - The internet has given rise to many new technologies and devices. Over the last several years our fascination (obsession?) with the new tech afforded by the digital age has rapidly increased.

The original iPhone was released in 2007 and really set the smartphone world on fire. The iPhone along with the multitude of Android phones have led the charge in this new connected and app-centric culture.

The tablet computer has continued this trend. But now billions of dollars are being invested into what is thought to be the next big thing.

The web connected car.

Apps in a Car

The popularity of smartphones has led to an app-driven approach to many of our problems. Hundreds of thousands of apps have been created offering all manner of functionality. We can expect the same kind of innovation from software developers for the car as well.

Tighter integration of turn-by-turn directions, finding the nearest parking space, deals from local restaurants and businesses, are just some of the many possibilities. Could we see augmented reality information appearing on the windscreen?

According to Intel, the connected car is currently the third fastest growing technological device after mobile phones and tablets.

Limiting Factors

However there are many potential shortfalls to this new technology (especially in the short-term). Using mobile phones in cars has been made illegal in many countries, due to the risks and dangers it causes. Could all this new information crammed into our cars be a cause for distraction and potential accidents?

This will be an important design and usability problem that would need to be answered, before we take these ideas too far. Safety has to come first, when developing anything for cars.

One solution is to use this connected technology, to actually improve safety. For example a sensor could be used to call the emergency services in the event of an accident.

Some other questions to think about:

Will 3G and 4G internet data connections be reliable enough?

How much adoption of this technology will really occur?

More importantly how much actual use will it see?

IHS (an information company) conducted a poll which revealed more than 50% of consumers would be swayed by the presence of an internet capable vehicle.

Setting the Standard

At the moment we are seeing many different companies working towards the next truly smart vehicle. Remember that Apple wasn’t the first company to create a smartphone, but they were the spark that turned it into a very popular category. So which company will be the one to bring connected cars to the masses? It could be one of the existing car companies. But another possibility is one of the big tech companies such as Apple, Google or even Facebook successfully setting the standard for what all future cars should be like.

The automobile industry is certainly taking a long-term look at developing (and profiting) from this new category of vehicles. Billions of dollars have already been spent on research and development of new services and technologies to support the future of the connected car.

2014 is the year set for many of the big car manufacturers to offer all their vehicles with some sort of internet connectivity. These are still very early days for the connected car. It will take at least several years before its full potential can be realized.

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