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Connected car – where mobile communications meets the road

As we see in this edition of Automotive Industries the connected car is accelerating fast from concept to a must-have.  

There is a parallel with tires. Before John Boyd Dunlop of Belfast, Ireland introduced the commercial manufacture of pneumatic tires in 1888, the railways offered the only means of long-distance travel by land, and the horse furnished most day-to-day transportation. By first popularizing the bicycle and then the automobile the pneumatic tire arguably changed society. For example, Americans who used to travel less than 200 miles a year away from their communities in the early 1900s, now average 4,000 miles a year – 3,600 of them in an automobile, according to  

Pneumatic tires allow for a smoother ride as they absorb shocks from the road. Also, they provide traction on icy or wet weather, something that the wooden or steel wheel found on the first “horseless carriages” could never come close to providing. Mobility freed up people to move out of overcrowded inner city areas into the country. Manufacturers and farmers could reach new markets, and the world became a little smaller

More recently mobile data and its precursor the mobile phone have connected us even closer and more immediately. The digital mobile digital revolution started on April 3, 1973 when Martin Cooper, a Motorola researcher and executive, made the first mobile telephone call from handheld subscriber equipment.

The prototype phone weighed 1.1 kg and measured 23 cm long, 13 cm deep and 4.45 cm wide. It offered a talk time of just 30 minutes and took 10 hours to re-charge. It was only relatively recently, in the 1980s, when the first widely deployed analog cellular system became available. The Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) was commercially introduced in the Americas in October 1983, Israel in 1986, and Australia in 1987.  

Digital GSM – or second generation – mobile phone systems were introduced in Europe in the 1990s, and it is this technology which is the force behind the connected car. A study by Transparency Market Research estimated that the global connected car market will be worth some US$131.9 billion by 2019, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 34.7% between 2013 and 2019. Fuelling the growth will be the “always-on” generation who expect to enjoy the same connectivity and features on their mobile devices when in the car as they do at home, in the office or the coffee shop.  

Demand for services such as in-car infotainment services (music and gaming), emerging applications in vehicles, rising mobility-related information (weather, location, and traffic information), audio navigation via GPS, and entertainment are further boosting the growth. Consumers also want different safety and security services such as stolen vehicle tracking (SVT) and emergency call (eCall), which are increasing the demand for vehicle connectivity.  

Due to the growing usage of web-based applications and government mandates, China is predicted to be the largest consumer for integrated solution over the forecast period, followed by the U.S. and Eu¬rope. Furthermore, Asia-Pacific will rapidly grow in size and demand for connectivity technology in the coming years. Owing to an increasing demand for applica¬tions such as fleet management, navi¬gation, and infotainment, the demand for this technology will also increase in China, India, and Australia, according to the report.  But, as we see in this edition, there are challenges. Just as the pneumatic tire allowed drivers to reach unprecedented (and dangerous) speeds, so too is today’s motorist behind the wheel potentially distracted by too much information coming at them too fast. System designers are well aware of the limitations of the human brain, and are doing their best not to distract the driver. What is much less limited is the ability of computers to process multiple streams of information simultaneously.

They are the “brains” behind the true connected car – one that allows the occupants to send e-mails, browse Facebook and chat while the vehicle does the driving. That technology is already here. It will be another game changer, as the pneumatic tire was for the wheelwright and mobile phones for fixed line operators. 

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