Is your car smarter than you?

  • Connected cars are growing in number and features, with two million U.S. cars now accessing the AT&T wireless network.

  • Consumer demand and auto industry partnerships will drive next-generation features.

You may have noticed lately that cars are getting smarter. Get used to it, because we’ve only just begun.

Many new cars today can park themselves, warn you when you get too close to other objects, help you back up, and apply the brakes if you are about to hit something. Some vehicles can automatically connect to emergency services if you have an accident, and link with smartphones for diagnostics, driving patterns, weather, traffic, and road condition reports. If you have an electric vehicle, you might even be able to power your house with it in the event of a blackout.

Companies are working on cars that can drive themselves, but it will likely be a while before they are anywhere near mainstream. Still, you can expect more smart connectivity features each time you drive a new vehicle off the lot.

Connected cars are shaping the future of driving

What makes all of this possible is M2M (machine to machine) technology, which leverages wired and wireless communications to connect various devices. Tapping into recent improvements in broadband cellular networks, just about every automaker is rushing to add more features to what has become known as the “connected car.” In an October 2013 article, M2M Magazine predicted that by 2018, the global connected car market will reach $98 billion with shipments of nearly 60 million units.

Relationships between car makers and telecommunications companies are accelerating the adoption of connectivity features. For example, AT&T is bringing Internet radio and maps to Volvo vehicles. AT&T also provides connectivity for Volvo On Call, which lets drivers start their cars remotely and alerts the company’s emergency center if an airbag deploys.

Two million cars and growing

As of September 2014, AT&T reported 2 million cars in the U.S. were using its wireless network. The connected car phenomenon isn’t limited to the U.S. market. Initiatives such as the European Union’s eCall, which aims to equip cars with devices that connect to emergency services after a crash, are a key driver of the trend.

But user demand also plays a major role. Drivers are embracing the convenience of Internet connectivity for routing, entertainment, and geographic information. On the entertainment end, Internet radio services have been aggressively pursuing partnerships to equip cars with their offerings. And though advanced features are more common in luxury vehicles, they are becoming an option downstream as well.

In time, we will look back and wonder how we ever got by without the Internet in our cars. Just remember to keep your eyes on the road while driving.


Pedro Pereira is an independent business writer and the author of this blog. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

The Networking Exchange Blog Team About NEB Team