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Car manufacturers strive to make vehicles a mobile device

Car manufacturers strive to make vehicles a mobile device

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News & Events - Engineering News

February 19, 2013

With mobile device technology seemingly unstoppable, engineering research and development has been focused on the next generation of connectivity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the automobile has emerged as a prime candidate for app integration, with some manufacturers confident that every new vehicle will be connected to the internet by 2014.

According to the BBC, the holy grail for car makers is the integration of mobile apps into the dashboard, allowing the motorist the freedom to use technology installed in smart phones as standard to improve their driving experience. While using a mobile device behind the wheel is generally frowned upon, many new models already contain some sort of app-driven connectivity, mainly through the use of GPS and other associated systems.

Connected life
However, the connected car is seen as the next level, combining the information available through apps and the ability to use the internet, for simple tasks such as available parking in congested areas or how long it will take for a traffic light to change. This move toward a "connected life" is especially appealing for drivers who spend time commuting or who find themselves in an unfamiliar city, while removing the temptation to be distracted while driving.

Engineering resources at some of the world's largest car manufacturers are already being diverted to internet-connected vehicles, with Intel reportedly investing $100 million over the next five years to companies that can bridge the gap between mobile apps and full integration. With automakers keen to distance themselves from either the social-media aspect or internet radio - otherwise known as "infotainment" -  Intel's studies have shown that the car is the third-fastest growing tech device behind smart phones and tablets.

"Over 50 percent of consumers would be swayed by the presence of an internet-capable device" said Jack Bergquist, a spokesman for  IHS, a global information company. "By the end of 2014, for some of the bigger brands, every vehicle they sell will offer some sort of connectivity. If you look at a cost to design a completely new car model, some companies are spending around a third of the budget just on the in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) and the in-car technology around the system."

And it's not just auto companies who see vehicles as the future of mobile technology. According to Gigaom.com, high-profile tech firms such as Apple and Nuance Communications - designers of voice-activated software - want to replace the dashboard entirely and replace it with a system that responds to operator commands instead of having to push buttons, with the ultimate aim of making the car more than just a mobile device.

Potential pitfalls
However, the challenge of creating connected cars is more than just filling it with time-saving gadgets.

There have been concerns expressed over safety, especially when it comes to the amount of accidents that are currently attributed to distracted driving. Data released by the U.S Department of Transportation revealed that 3,000 people were killed in crashes in 2010 as a result of the practice, while studies have shown that a driver is 23 percent more likely to be involved in an accident if a mobile device is being used.

Another problem lies in the speed of technology development itself. Global manufacturers plan new vehicles years in advance, with the danger being that tying themselves to one type of tech can be potentially detrimental, even more so if the innovative engineering tools are usurped by something better as the car is introduced to customers.

"It's going to have to be integrated with mobile platforms," said John Leech, an analyst at KPMG, to the BBC. "Apple already has a very significant automotive team looking at how best Apple products can be used in-car. If I was betting, that's where I'd put my money."

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