I want lots of connectivity in my next car and have every reason to expect it (and, of course, to use it responsibly). We’re talking-cutting edge technology of the kind increasingly available to mid-range buyers; features like Internet access, voice recognition, full-color touch-screen displays, diagnostics, and various forms of infotainment.
I was a bit surprised to learn that all of that and more was packed into the Network Car concept developed by Delphi, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Netscape, and displayed at COMDEX (does anyone remember COMDEX?) – back in 1997.
What’s happened since then, according to Bob Schumacher, who heads Advanced Product and Business Development at Delphi, is that the key enabling technologies have matured, become more reliable, and are now available at lower cost.
Connectivity requires a platform, and four platforms are currently available, from Microsoft, QNX, the Genivi Consortium, and Google’s (Android). The latter two are both based on open source Linux. Connectivity requires methods of transporting data, and Schumacher sees Bluetooth, USB, Wi-Fi, and 3G (or 4G) cellular as the four current favorites for connecting portable devices. Sirius/XM, DVB-T, and DVB-SH are among the options for broadcast data, and DSRC is favored for wireless communication between cars and the roadside infrastructure.
Powerful 32-bit microcontrollers are available and affordable, flash memory has come down in price, and so have display. “Right now most of the displays in cars are active matrix LCD, but we’ll be moving into organic LEDs (OLEDs), which are being used in smartphones,” Schumacher notes.
Enabling technology makes the connected car possible, but smartphones and smartphone apps are making the connected car compelling. “Consumers have discovered that mobile devices make life more convenient, productive, and entertaining, and they want those advantages 24 hours a day, no matter where they are,” Schumacher says.