For years, we’ve known that cars are as much computers as our laptops and smartphones. But, until recently, cars have been largely cut off from one of the most important aspects of the modern computer age: the Internet. That’s all changing now, though, with the advent of connected cars.
We’ve long enjoyed some degree of connectivity when driving, whether it’s making calls via Bluetooth, updating our position through satellite navigation, or receiving real-time traffic information via radio signals. But, with cars connected to the Internet, the automotive industry is adding a whole new level of functionality.
LINKING SMARTPHONES TO CARS
Recently, many manufacturers have developed apps that essentially integrate your smartphone into the car, so that you can use and control its apps through the dashboard. Ford, Volvo and BMW, for example, allow you to connect to Spotify and stream music directly to your car’s speakers.
Apple’s CarPlay – available in over 100 UK models from various manufacturers – adds your iPhone’s apps to your car’s display, so you can ask Siri for directions or to start your favourite playlist while you drive. Android Auto and MirrorLink both do a similar job for many Android smartphones from Samsung, Sony, HTC and others.
NEW APPS ESPECIALLY FOR DRIVERS
As ever in the tech world, one set of innovations has led to another. Now that drivers can use their smartphone apps at the wheel, developers are creating apps specifically with them in mind.
There are now apps that will track your fuel consumption, find the nearest (and cheapest) petrol stations, update you on traffic jams, and even tell you if you’re too close to the car in front.
CONNECTING CARS TO THE INTERNET DIRECTLY
But why rely on other devices? Increasingly, car manufacturers are producing cars that can connect to the Internet directly, taking the smartphone out of the equation.
More and more cars are gaining Internet access through 3G and 4G networks. In the United States, AT&T alone had almost 12 million cars connected to its mobile network by the end of 2016, according to analyst Chetan Sharma. Last year, Statista’s Digital Market Forecast estimated that there were 1.8 million connected cars in the UK, and predicted that the number will rise dramatically in the next few years, to 8.6 million in 2020.
The Internet isn’t just for computers and phones anymore. The new and growing ‘Internet of Things’ is changing many aspects of everyday life – including driving and fleet management. We’ll be returning to the subject of connected cars on this blog soon.