Cellular companies are now fighting for the right to connect to your car. Much of the news surrounding the rush for in-car connections sound like the controversies surrounding cellular service. But instead of talking about mobile gadgets like smartphones and tablets, these cellular companies are trying to gain exposure to drivers.
So how exactly does in-car connectivity work, and how will it impact your life? Well, connected cars boast on-board computing systems that are connected to data networks, providing you with navigation updates, digital radio, and more. There are several cars that already have this technology built in. Companies like Audi and Ford have already released models that can jump onto Wi-Fi or cellular data networks. FierceWireless explains that Verizon already has exclusive connected car deals with several manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Toyota, and Hyundai.
However, AT&T has been extremely vocal about their own connected car deals. Reuters explains how AT&T has pulled ahead of other carriers with a total of eight automotive partnerships. In fact, AT&T has dedicated an official website to their current car partnerships with companies like GMC, Volvo, and Chevrolet. Their Audiovox Car Connection Elite Series allows drivers to even check the status of their cars from mobile devices. This includes vehicle tracking, automated safety notices, maintenance alerts, and expense tracking. You can even check their dedicated app for recall notices, fuel efficiency stats, and battery levels. AT&T seems to be taking the lead in the current quest for connected car technologies, with such an array of data deals and app offerings.
In addition to tensions between the cellular giants, drivers and automobile companies also have to contend with concerns about the safety of on-board computing systems. The federal government has dedicated a significant amount of research and attention to distracted driving, an issue that has been attributed to rising automobile accidents and fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration established Distraction.gov in an effort to raise awareness about the significant risks of distracted driving. Their research shows that drivers can travel the length of a football field if they take their eyes off the road for five seconds while traveling at 55 mph.
While the most dangerous behaviors are connected to mobile devices, research also shows that on-board computing systems can also distract drivers from the road. In response, some smartphone companies have embraced voice-activated systems, which allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road. However, this isn’t just a visual issue. Researchers at MIT are also wary of voice-controlled car computing systems, because they can still distract drivers. They assert that voice systems place additional “cognitive demand” on the driver. So even though they’re looking at the road, they are still thinking about the digital tasks.
Despite the evolving research, car companies, mobile device manufacturers, and cellular companies are still pushing forward with increasingly connected cars. It’s likely that consumers will see Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and other major cellular carriers duke it out over automobile deals, while new apps hit the market for increased integration.