'Every new car' connected to web by 2014

An Indian man talks on his mobile phone as he drives past a traffic awareness poster on a busy road in Bangalore Using phones for calls, text messaging, or social media could be made unnecessary by new innovations

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Five years ago mobile phones were at the forefront of technology, by 2010 the focus was on tablet computers and now billions of yen, dollars and pounds are being invested in what is seen as the next digital playground - the car.

Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving a car has been illegal in the UK since 2003.

But 10 years later, car manufacturers are hoping that the technology regularly found on smartphones could change the way we use our cars.

Car sensor technology Technology is helping motorists drive safely by sensing nearby vehicles

What this means is app-culture infiltrating the dashboard - from a parking space finder to a way to get coupons for local restaurants, or directions that can pop up on the windscreen.

It all relies on the car being connected to the internet, allowing all this information to arrive without too much searching or button pushing and a lot more focus on voice commands.

The connected car is already the third fastest growing technological device after phones and tablets, Intel believes.

Start Quote

By the end of 2014, every vehicle [big brands] sell will offer some sort of connectivity”

End Quote Jack Bergquist IHS information

"Ford has categorically stated that this is selling more cars for them," says Jack Bergquist of information company IHS.

"Over 50% of consumers would be swayed by the presence of an internet-capable device."

The phrase currently being used to describe all this connected material is "infotainment".

Free parking

At present, headlines often focus on the use of social media, integrated internet radio or clever ways to use voice commands. But the internet could be used for much more simple - and practical - things.

KITT, the car from Knight Rider Science fiction has regularly shown examples of what a more intelligent car could accomplish

There are already apps that can show local petrol stations and their prices, allowing drivers to keep going for a few more miles to save a few pence a litre when filling up a car.

There is also an app to find a car parking space in some major cities, using electronic sensors, or analysing an aerial view of local street spaces.

Perhaps more interesting are the things you never knew you could find out.

When stopped at a traffic light, trials have shown a system where a time can pop up on the dashboard letting drivers know how long until it changes.

This is not a cheap business. It is thought billions of pounds have been spent so far on the development of these services.

Start Quote

It will not be car companies but actually someone like Apple or Facebook who will successfully challenge the car manufacturers”

End Quote John Leech KPMG

By 2020, $600 billion (£380bn) - or 20% of the value of new connected vehicles - will be able to be attributed to "connected life", according to Machina Research.

Intel alone is investing $100 million (£64m) in the next five years in companies that can quicken the adoption of connected cars.

"By the end of 2014, for some of the bigger brands, every vehicle they sell will offer some sort of connectivity," says Bergquist.

"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."

More crashes?

With driving currently taking every bit of the driver's attention - until at least more progress is made on self-driving cars - critics have warned of safety concerns.

Around a quarter of all traffic crashes in the US are caused by mobile phone use in some way, the National Safety Council says.

If all this information becomes even easier to access, is there an even greater risk of distraction?

Google's self-drive car Google has already made headway in driving hardware as well as software

"The danger is safety," John Ellis, global technologist for connected services and solutions at Ford, said at a CES 2013 discussion.

"You could get caught up in your experience and forget that you're driving. Better, faster cheaper is what consumers want - but with safety."

Safety concerns are being addressed with a mandatory sensor which calls emergency services in the event of an accident.

Titled eCall, under EU plans all new cars will be fitted with it by 2015.

But it is not just on-road safety that is causing developers headaches.

"People being able to hack into the car is a big issue," says Bergquist.

"If there's a data system in a car, technically someone could hack into it."

This hacking has been demonstrated by security consultants who unlocked the doors of a car and started the engine without a key or touching the vehicle itself.

It is done by intercepting wireless messages between the car and the network.

Start Quote

Car CD player

Sometimes, removing tech reveals a whole new opportunity. CD players are slowly disappearing from the dash”

End Quote Ian Hardy BBC Click

But the risk, analysts believe, is small because of time spent on security by the companies involved and the risks of failure.

"Theoretically, hacking is possible, but car companies are very aware of that risk and busily preparing themselves," says John Leech, of KPMG.

"Connected cars will have to be released with appropriately designed security to prevent that hacking."

In Ford's new systems, for example, apps are physically separated from vehicle critical devices - making it, it says, impossible to hack between the two.

'Apple or Facebook'

At the moment, a system removed from major mobile operating systems like Android or iOS still exists.

Android-based systems have already been demonstrated by a company working in partnership with BMW and most systems in cars can communicate with these devices.

But there are predictions that one or two developers are researching ways to turn car technology on its head.

"I suspect it will not be car companies but actually someone like Apple or Facebook who will successfully challenge the car manufacturers," says Leech.

"It's going to have to be integrated with mobile platforms.

"Apple already has a very significant automotive team looking at how best Apple products can be used in-car. If I was betting, that's where I'd put my money."

A lot of companies are betting a lot of money on this industry continuing to grow rapidly.

If these companies are right, it is only a matter of time before the car could directly compete with the phone and the tablet to be the biggest smart industry.

You can safely expect more puns around digital highways, driving data and speeding up innovation to be not too far away.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    Do we really need this? We certainly don't need the ability to access the internet ourselves when behind the wheel.
    I can see a certain appeal for some for the driverless car, as surely you wouldn't need a driving licence to have one, but we have enough cars on the road as it is, and surely you'd need to have ALL driverless cars or there'd be accidents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    Something else to distract the motorists maybe the government should clamp down on people using mobile phones whilst driving as I feel is the cause of a lot of accidents / near misses

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    I can see the case for technology assisting our driving. I have an issue where it crosses over into controlling our driving.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    Looking at the + on comments you can tell what a bunch of idiots we have in this country, so negative + for you won't be able to speed. Good police will be able to look after people and bad drivers will be punished by their own driving. Can't wait to see the - next to my comment

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    @276. Leodisthefirst
    You do realise that you are talking total nonsense. Infotainment is not about increasing the safety. Even if it was then catching a bean bag has nothing what so ever to do with driving. Any how, its people like you that allow governments to get away with the spying they do... all they have to do is say 'safety' at some point and you roll over and accept it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    289. Tio Terry

    I intend to be inhumed in my Bentley, I love it that much.

    I did wonder about being stuffed and mounted on the roof so the family could enjoy driving me around but have decided against that idea!

    Butlers name is James by the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.


    I intend to be inhumed in my Bentley, I love it that much.

    I did wonder about being stuffed and mounted on the roof so the family could enjoy driving me around but have decided against that idea!

    Butlers name is James by the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    Why not just make it law that were implanted with mobile internet receivers? If we try to get smart and block the signal it can deliver a leathal injection.

    Life will be perfect then - my facebook page can be updated with what i'm actually looking at at that very moment. How liberating technology is!

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    276. Leodisthefirst
    'You people do realise that a lot of drivers are the kids who couldn't catch a bean bag in year nine at school?'

    Oh yes - and how many points do you have on your license? I bet you don't have a clean one!

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    We might have to be a little wary of this - it is the first step towards monitoring every yard traveled and would allow road pricing to be quickly rolled out - something the government is especially keen on to counteract the loss of duty and VAT on petrol and diesel resulting from the use of more efficient and electric vehicles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Would it mean that Police could automatically immobolise a vehicle if they wanted to? To stop a stolen car, one suspected of being used in a robbery or maybe speeding?

    No more Police, Camera Action! What about imposed speed limits so you cannot speed, say past a school (even if it is closed for the night)? Or maybe used for congestion control, only letting you drive when there is road space?

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    This gives a whole new meaning to the term Smart Car..

    But no really, this is becoming a little too much. We are developing so fast with our gadgets we seem to be forgetting a major principle. Security. You read weekly that a new major site was hacked. Websites, apps and everything else is becoming so easy to make we forget to check our flaws. Can you imagine your car being hacked next? Probably.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    I am already connected whilst driving I have a Sat Nav which 'Updates' over the air, tells me where the cheapest petrol is advises me of a new route if there are delays on the route, tells me where the nearest parking is, tells me what the current weather is like at my destination, allows me to make hands free calls etc for less than £200, will car manufacturers charging a fortune for the same?

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    This is a truly GENIUS idea. An in-car internet connection will give all those idiots who text as they drive a much more constructive way to cause accidents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Technology should be harnessed to build intelligent vehicles Built-in technology can ensure that cars do not come too close. Connectivity with cars around ensures that vehicles do not crash into one another. At regulated speeds smooth flow of traffic would be the norm. The necessity of over-taking would not be necessary. Speed limits will always have to be respected. Caution will be the mantra.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Environmentally hostile - yet more cruft to carry around, more electricity to be generated by the engine... No purpose at all. If that much was spent on changing the engine design significantly we could be looking at doubling or tripling the MPG out of a car (yes engines that have that much advantage already exist - the manufacturers can't be bothered to fit them)

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    263. Tio Terry
    When they manage to get reliable WiFi on trains then I'll believe it can happen with cars as well.

    In the meantime, the Bentley will last at least 20 years so will see me out, I wont need to bother with it all - and big brother will not know what I'm doing!
    I do hope he is a good butler, Bentley that is, make sure you 'look after' him when your gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    I don't get it. If you're driving you should be concentrating on that, if you're a passenger you have all the other shiz on your phone right?

    Over a quarter of crashes in the US are caused by mobile phone usage, when this comes in around half will be due to drivers watching videos of cats on YouTube.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    This is tracking, and then road pricing by the back door. If I bought a car with it, I would be instantly looking for the engineering mode or firmware hack to disable it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    You people do realise that a lot of drivers are the kids who couldn't catch a bean bag in year nine at school? They are now allowed control of two tons of plastic and metal travelling at..... It's imperative that their every moment when driving is known.

    It's a "safety" thing disguised as "infotainment".


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