The connected car

For many a “connected car” means plugging your smart phone into the cigarette lighter/charger or, if you’re lucky connecting your car and phone via Bluetooth. In car information systems vary from poor to downright archaic. I can’t tell you how many new or near new cars I’ve driven which wouldn’t even give me information on my litres per 100km figure. So whats going on? Why are our favourite vehicles so far behind a device as small as a smartphone?

What’s the hold up?

In truth, there are many good reasons behind car maker’s coyness in the area. The “connected” hardware and software can be extremely distracting and it can struggle to connect with the plethora of different devices swirling around. Add these two very big issues with the fact that due to the long vehicle production timelines these “cutting edge” adaptations can become out of date before the first car even comes off the assembly line.

Eyes Free

In recent years there has been huge push in eliminating or minimising in car distractions. Hands free kits are now the only way you can use a mobile device in a vehicle. With that trail of thought we are introduced to eyes free. The difficulty here is in creating a system which operates and takes commands (like turning things up and down, off and on) without the driver even looking directly at anything other than the road. There have been a lot of rumblings about this, and both Honda and Chevrolet are lining up to use Apples voice activated service Siri to become leaders in the “eyes free” space.

Whats coming?

Its remarkable how little this area is discussed and its equally remarkable how some areas have been overlooked for so long. In 2013 it’s rare to talk to anyone who has ever connected to their cars computer (excluding where your mechanic has done it). Whats even rarer it seems is finding an app which connects a smart phone to a car computer. This said there are some very big strides being made to improve the info and entertainment flow within the car. Here are some of the ideas currently on the horizon.

  • In-car internet connection – Your car may soon have a sim card! Multiple companies are working with numerous different connectivity types.
  • Integrated voice commands - Siri integration is currently being worked on by Chevrolet and Honda
  • Full Bluetooth integration – Many car makers are moving on from just phone capability to music and apps capability.
  • Apps which connect with your car computer - This could help car problem diagnosis.

Final thoughts

Sadly people will need to set their sights a little lower for in car internet for the moment. The distraction factor, the fact that Siri and other voice activated services are in their infancy, and the poor quality of mobile internet means even the next generation of cars probably won’t wow on this front. For the time being Bluetooth, GPS and basically plugging your phone/pad into the lighter socket will be as far as most will go. In the meantime it would be nice for the car makers to make the in-car computers more accessible for those of us interested in what the information the cars already gather can tell us.

What do you think is coming next?

Have you ever connected to your cars computer?

Please comment below.

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