Online on the Road – Automakers Seek to Provide Full Service and Safety

2014 is the year that major automakers intend to equip their vehicles with high quality, safe and more widely available online devices and services. With more and more consumers demanding online connections while traveling in their cars, automakers are attempting to become more competitive in the growing mobile connectivity market.

Audi and GM introduced new technology for built-in 4G high-speed broadband in new vehicles at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This is the same widely used mobile technology in tablets and smartphones. The intention is to go head to head with Silicon Valley to woo customers who want connectivity while driving.

The broadband technology used on the road will provide all the services consumers use at home, work and elsewhere such as music, video and various kinds of information access. In addition, services like analyzing and troubleshooting vehicle systems, “glanceable” weather and traffic information will be available, all hands-free, hopefully solving some safety issues regarding manipulating a device and opening apps while operating a vehicle.

Ford Motor Company announced a planned expansion of its Ford Sync AppLink technology to an additional 3.4 million vehicles. The product allows both drivers and passengers to use their voices to control smartphone apps and vehicle software as well.

The competition to give consumers the tech they want in their vehicles is definitely underway; what isn’t so certain is how much they’ll actually be willing to pay for these services, especially considering that many services are already provide on their phones and tablets.

Federal highway safety regulators have also made it clear that safety will not be compromised, recently releasing a set of guidelines for automakers to adhere to when creating the increasingly popular in-vehicle “infotainment” systems. They’ve stated that if the risk of driver distraction isn’t kept to a minimum, stronger steps will be taken to regulate the systems.

Dave Teater, senior director of the National Safety Council had this to say: “To take mobile technology and give the driver distractions that don’t even relate to driving is just not the right direction. I don’t blame automakers, but they are now in an arms race to be more connected and I think that sends a message that it is normal and not dangerous.”

It was clear at the Las Vegas show that the race to provide the best in-vehicle mobile technology is on. GM will make its 4G broadband available in multiple 2015 models with expansion to all models in the future. The Chevy app store offers in-vehicle app downloads for a variety of services.  Google and Apple partnerships with several other major automakers such as Audi, BMW and Honda are being worked out, with hopes that such alliances will increase revenue for the companies while providing quality services for vehicle owners.

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