Monday, February 20, 2012

Connected Cars

The advertisements for cars and trucks have begun to tout some new features. Not only are the new ads promoting good gas mileage, cool headlights and attention-grabbing design, they are emphasizing connectivity. While mobile phones in cars and services like OnStar have been around for many years, high speed mobile connectivity and even true Internet access has been slow to find its way into family car. That is changing at freeway speed.

Cars now have a variety of cool new features. Some high end models have systems that continuously monitor the cars status and transmit that information back to the dealer. So a failing exhaust sensor in your engine, a bad break rotor or burned out tail light may be known to Clyde, your service technician, before you know about it. You may get a call from Clyde inviting you to stop in rather than you calling to make a service appointment.

Adding two way communications capacity to traditional GPS services allows easy tracking of vehicles. Major trucking and delivery companies have used this technology for years allowing you to know when that package of cookies from Aunt Edna will be on your front porch. While privacy issues loom large with these features, knowing exactly where your teenage son is on a Friday night may for many parents trump privacy concerns.

We have often discussed in these columns various online music services like Pandora, Spotify and iTunes Radio. These have been not been readily available in cars unless you used a smartphone connected to your auto’s sound system. Even with Bluetooth technology for this connection, this was not always a seamless experience. With true Internet access provided to automobiles using 4G and other WIMAX networks, listening to your favorite Cincinnati radio station while driving on the LA Freeway will be as easy as it is now to listen while driving on I-74.

Don’t look for a slide out keyboard for mobile texting replacing the cup holder on your dashboard or a pull down high definition TV hanging from your rearview mirror. Car makers need to provide online based functions that truly assist rather than distract the driver. Nevertheless, reading the sticker on your next new car may well require you to compare Internet speed along with miles per gallon and engine horsepower as you choose that new ride.

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