Connected Cars: ready to burn rubber

Mar 19, 2013

I suppose we could see the car as the ultimate mobile device: its fascination is part technology, part fashion and design, part utilitarian, part individual identity, just like a smartphone. And at an exhibition like Mobile World Congress all the car-shine along with that, no doubt carefully contrived, new rubber/plastic/upholstery smell just tells you all you need to know about how to sell a gadget. It's something the car industry has been doing for over 100 years. Watch and learn.

But for all that the car guys have got a hard nut to crack. Car connectedness is clearly a big thing and a potential major differentiator in an industry in desperate need of differentiation. But at the moment there are significant differences in the way the various motor manufacturing groups are going about it - in fact each vendor has a different take and approach, and there's even an 'open' alternative fighting for visibility.

We had a look at two systems at this year's MWC. General Motors had a particular approach which made much of its LTE deal with AT&T in North America in 'Making the car a WiFI hotspot' (see below).

With 'The BYOD connected car' (also see below) the idea was to simply integrate a driver's existing device (or environment) into the car, so that they get to keep the familiar interface (slightly optimised for driving requirements) and access to their existing content, apps and messages. They key here is openness, the idea is to bring your environment with you on the smartphone and integrate that with a dashboard radio-style interface optimised for driving conditions.

Take any car manufacturer and you'll see a slightly different approach at work.

Connected cars will also spawn completely new applications, as our 'Executive Insight: M2M-driven car insurance' explores. And, for completeness, we step back a year to our interview with Ford last year in our 'Executive Insight: enter the cloud-connected car'. VIDEO:Making the car a WiFI hotspot

General Motors has tied up with AT&T and plans an all-LTE connected car strategy: BYOD to connect via WiFi and a curated apps approach. Ian Scales talks to Paul Pebbles, Global Manager of the Electric Vehicle and Smart Grid services for OnStar, GM, who claims the deal will make GM the auto-maker with the most LTE out in the field.

VIDEO:The BYOD connected car

Alan Ewing, Executive Director of the Connected Car Consortium, explains the idea: bring your own device into the car you happen to be driving to have YOUR navigation software, YOUR music library, and YOUR phone contacts on tap. Keeping an open environment is key.VIDEO:Executive Insight: M2M-driven car insurance

O2 UK is working with insurance companies to help them develop a different sort of insurance offer using M2M. David Taylor, MD of M2M at O2 UK explains the idea to Ian Scales. It's not "Big Brother" he claims, and anyway insurance companies are no longer able to set premiums according to sex. As a result they have to find other ways of defining each driver's risk. Measuring driving performance might be the fastest way to cheaper premiums.- Last year at MWC -VIDEO:Executive Insight: enter the cloud-connected car

Paul Mascarenas, Chief Technology Officer at Ford Motors, tells Guy Daniels all about the Ford B-MAX car and the vision that Ford has put behind it. So why launch at MWC? Ford is going much broader than just cars - it has developed a blueprint for personal mobility to support an integrated system of transportation where the vehicle becomes part of a larger network of busses, trains, planes and even bicycles, claims Mascarenas. The highly connected B-MAX provides some early proof-points for the concept and he says Ford will be back to MWC with more.

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