The move toward self-driving, autonomous cars depends on in-vehicle connectivity. Improvements and innovations in safety systems are also driven by connectivity. The in-car experience, for both driver and passengers, is also enhanced through connectivity, so it’s no surprise that industry experts are looking to information technology as the next frontier for the auto industry.

Telematics Already in Place

Interactive systems, such as GM’s OnStar program, have been using long-distance wireless technology in cars for over 20 years. High-end, high-tech vehicles including Tesla’s Model S use telematics to transmit and upgrade vehicle software. These upgrades develop and expand the capabilities of driver-assist modes and automated safety features. Even insurance companies are getting into the telematics game with devices that collect and transmit car driving information, such as sudden acceleration, sudden braking and time of day vehicles are driven to provide motorists the opportunity for discounts through usage-based insurance.

Fully Automated Vehicles

Development and testing is already in place for fully automated vehicles that operate with little or no driver input. These vehicles use a variety of sensors and GPS data to make the car “aware” of where it is and what traffic conditions surround it.

More likely to hit the mainstream, though, is hands-free partial automation. As the automation system recognizes certain driving conditions, such as slow-moving urban traffic or clear, open-highway, the driver is invited to enable hands-free mode, permitting the automated system to take over.

Car Connectivity Cloud

Cloud-based technology will become more important as the connectivity field evolves. Smartphone control over things like remote starting and remote locking and unlocking are showing increased demand, and automated valet service – where the car backs itself out of a garage or pulls up to where the driver waits – is already in development.

Use-Driven Innovation

Voice recognition is already in use, particularly with dash-mounted smartphone extensions, but there are times when a driver may not want to disturb sleeping passengers. Gesture recognition may be the answer, and it may be more reliable, since inflection, accents and road noise won’t influence the system’s performance.

As with many developments in technology, new applications and refinements occur based on the implementation and use of current systems. Thirty years ago, few envisioned a wireless telephone would house high-quality still and video cameras or entertainment systems capable of holding thousands of songs. So too will the connected car develop in unexpected ways, as wireless, Wi-Fi and satellite communications support the increasing complexity of car connectivity.