Connected People Meet the Connected Car

We're all walking around hyper-connected with all sorts of gizmos — namely, smartphones — with all sorts of bells, whistles, and life-tracking apps. Why shouldn't your car be part of that mobile-life experience?

That's what carmakers and consortia, such as Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), are wondering, and what's making their collective presence more noteworthy these last couple years at traditional mobile phone events.

As this TechHive article notes, last month's Mobile World Congress — a massive headliner event for global mobile operators, device makers, and service providers — is becoming as good as any place to showcase how smartphone technology is increasingly dialed into auto circles.

There were executive keynotes, with the likes of General Motors vice chairman Steve Girsky talking about 4G LTE connectivity being be built into vehicles as early as next year. (See: MWC: Mobile’s Next Wave of Vertical Disruption.) And there was news about Ford partnering with Spotify to have voice-controlled, on-demand music linked to its SYNC AppLink-connected vehicles, making it the second year in a row that Ford has used the venue to highlight its connected car concept.

Truly mobile phone
There were ads, too, teasing up the obvious mobility links. Audi's big splash banner hanging in one of the exhibition center's hallways played to that point: “The Audi A3 Sportback: The world's biggest smartphone.”

Down in the app developer hall, CCC, founded in 2011 and dedicated to developing global standards for smartphone in-car connectivity, made a debut appearance at the congress this year and showed off MirrorLink, its non-proprietary technology. MirrorLink allows consumers to access their phones using the same controls they use for accessing the car's radio, climate control, and navigation system, according to the CCC. Things like standard USB plug-ins to connect the phone to the vehicle's infotainment system, dashboard knobs or touch screens, or steering wheel buttons means less fiddling with devices on the road.

MirrorLink Technology allows consumers to access their phone using the same  controls they use for accessing the car radio, climate control and navigation system.

MirrorLink Technology allows consumers to access their phone using the same
controls they use for accessing the car radio, climate control and navigation system.

Said Mika Rytkonen, CCC's chairman and president:

    The car is the last place where people are unconnected. But, people want to be connected in their cars. They want to talk to their friends or listen to music from their smartphones. Giving out bigger tickets or imposing bigger fines won't change people's behavior. What we need to do instead is to focus on creating safety guidelines and developing technology that allows people to use their phones in their cars in a safe way.

Of course, cars will be connected, and as we're seeing with PCs, there will be an increased slant towards “mobile first” design features embedded in dashboards and vehicles coming off factory lines.

Tomorrow's challenges
And, yes, there is inherent value in this connectivity. All sorts of traffic and emergency management activities down to routine car maintenance tasks could benefit from in-car mobile connectivity, not to mention the ease-of-use and convenience many people would enjoy by having their cars and smartphones (and homes) integrated more seamlessly.

But there's still much work to be done. Data security, privacy issues, and international road-device safety standards are among the biggest concerns needing much deeper review. And what about signal and roadside connectivity infrastructure and related investment? Are there going to be dead zones and a repeat of that famous line from Verizon commercials, “Can you hear me now?”

Then again, if we're all going to be in a mobile hotspot speeding along at 70 miles an hour, listening to Spotify music or streaming Internet video while calling your office, maybe the real question has more to do with how many things a human can effectively do at the same time and less about the technology that enables this behavior. Technology is never really the issue. Human behavior is.

22 comments on “Connected People Meet the Connected Car

  1. William K.
    March 19, 2013

    It will be interesting to see just what the effect all of this connectivity will have on the amount of attention that drivers will have left for driving. The sad reality is that most drivers need to use most of their attention most of the time in order to drive safely, and all of the toys that provide these distractions are simply not going to improve the driver attentvness to driving. So the result will be a string of fatalities such that our lawmakers will attempt to solve the problem by mandating more safety systems, instead of mandating fewer distration systems. The lobbyists will make certain of that, since all of those distrations provide a large profit for their suppliers. 

  2. SP
    March 20, 2013

    I like that statement “Technology is nver really the problem. The problem is human behavior”.

    Thats absolutely correct. Humans are not machine, they have emotions and feelings. I am sure we defitely devise the technology where smartphone can be integrated to cars. But when someone drives its better to do only driving because even a small phone call can divert your attention. If its a really long drive in a stretch then it can be of help.

  3. prabhakar_deosthali
    March 20, 2013

    In my opinion, the technology to be used in Car should be primarily aimed at reducing the driving strain on the driver by using the technology for say, parking assistance, alert in case of over speeding, alert in case a vehicle is too close from behind , side or front, automatically adjusting the headlight intensity as per the visibility condition of the road ahead, get information on traffic jams or accidents or road blocks and suggest route diversions and may be automatically inform the concerned people about your whereabouts.

    Anything other than this , such as making a call or texting while driving , is a distraction to the driver and hence is a big no-no.


  4. Anand
    March 20, 2013

    Anything other than this , such as making a call or texting while driving , is a distraction to the driver and hence is a big no-no.

    @Prabhakar, good point. I think if companies start providing too many features inside the car then it definitely distracts the attention of the driver. I am curious to know if there is any study done to check the impact of such technology on the raod safety.

  5. Anand
    March 20, 2013

    But when someone drives its better to do only driving because even a small phone call can divert your attention.

    @SP, true phone calls definitely divert the drivers attention but that wont happen if every car gets the same technology that the Google car has. Self driven cars can be more safer than the human driven cars.

  6. Jennifer Baljko
    March 20, 2013

    “any study done to check the impact of such technology on the raod safety.”

    As @anandvy, points out having a benchmark might be help gauge where technology can be most helpful and less distracting. I haven't dug deep enough to find a recent study on that – but I'll look into. Might be a good follow-up post. Thx for the idea.

    To the other points, we all know legislation is not going to solve driver and road safety issues. The laws exist and to some extent so does the enforcement of those laws. But people take the risk anyway, and then pay the fine when they get caught without even thinking too much about it.

    Technology isn't really the issue…it's a human behavior issue. And human behavior – without or without technology – lends itself to unsafe and risky  activities (she says flashing back to a childhood memory of five kids lunging for the radio dial at the same time and making the parents in the front seat crazy… luckily without an accident). Point is – as @prabhakar points out, the tech industry, consumer groups, car and safety organization, auto makers and legislators need to come and form some interational standrds around how technology can best be utilized for the greater good on our highways.




  7. t.alex
    March 20, 2013

    William K.,

    I think one thing  CCC should do is to enforce safety standards into connected cars too. For example, when the car is move beyond certain speed, it should in any way allow the driver to do certain things like talking through the phone. Or perhaps a connect car should automatically park and stop when the driver answer a phone call.

  8. hash.era
    March 20, 2013

    @talex: Good suggestion on limiting the user with the interactivity when the vehicle is at a certain level of speed but my question is that if it to happen don't you think you need the service provider to agree on certain terms. Do you think the service provider will agree to something which might block their income ?    

  9. SP
    March 21, 2013

    truly agreed. Afterall phone and car were invented to do different functions.

  10. SP
    March 21, 2013

    self driven cars is I think someone's dream project atleast in countries like India where no one follow any traffic rule and drive like mad it wont work at all. You need good infrastructure for self driven cars as they would be programmed.

  11. William K.
    March 21, 2013

    SP, that may be true in India, I have not been there, and it is also often true here in Michigan, where even such a thing as roundabouts causes some drivers to become horribly stupid. No other polite way to say it, folks. Sorry. BUT IF it were ever possible to implement a self driving car that was satisfactory, then the drivers could do other things safely. Right now the closest thing we have to self driving cars is AMTRAK, which does do a great job.

  12. Brian Fuller
    March 22, 2013

    @William K., I think this will become commonplace a lot faster than we suspect. The technology is here today, deployed in some luxury models already. 

    Ultimately, it will change the way we design communities, but that's a ways down the road. 

    The sad day will be when we car racing removes the drivers…


    ;  )



  13. William K.
    March 22, 2013

    Brian, I had not realized that there were already luxury cars that were self driving. I was aware of automated parking, but that is a bit different. 

    What I see is that right now at least half of the drivers can drive better than any computer could ever drive a car under almost any conditions. And actually it may be a much better proportion. So really it would make a whole lot more sense to simply revoke the driving privaleges of those incapable of driving safely and let the rest of us enjoy both more room on the roads, and a safer driving environment. Because at least here in Michigan all that you need to do to get a drivers license is to pay the money and pass the eye test. If you get answers wrong on the written test they simply explain the right answer and give you the license. And you only need to pass a road test once in your life. 

    BY THE WAY, That Anet advertisement that keeps moving is very irritating and would probably keep me from ever drealing with them unless they were a sole-source for something.

  14. Mr. Roques
    March 22, 2013

    For most M2M communications, we have enough technology (and bandwidth), a connected car doesn't need much more than what we already have. The issue is the QoS and the risk of something going wrong.

  15. Adeniji Kayode
    March 23, 2013

    @ Mr.Roques,

    well said, but manufacturers will keep updating and upgrading all these stuff in to their cars.

    Can we actually say we have had enough of technology in our cars and can we really say we are satiisfied with what we have

  16. Adeniji Kayode
    March 23, 2013

    @ Brian,

    Just wondering what the fun would be like if the drivers are removed, will car racing not become llke a video game?

  17. Adeniji Kayode
    March 23, 2013

    @ t.alex

    This will only be possible if the service providers will cooperate with the automobile companies and also if automobile companies will not install an over-ride.

  18. William K.
    March 23, 2013

    @Adeniji Kayode, are you saying that there should not be any means to over ride the control system in a car with the automated driving feature? My position is that such a horribly unsafe vehicle should not ever even be allowed into the country. ALL computerized systems are subject to failure, and must have a means to stop them. That is why in all of the safe factories the automated machines still have those big red “emergency stop” buttons. Besides that, the driverless car will never be produced that can handle unanticipated exceptions, and so there must be a way to over ride the control system for that occurrence as well. 

    A computer crash can be quite inconvenient, but a car crash can be quite fatal. Those are facts, they are also the reason that we should never trust machines completely, and not trust computers very much at all.

  19. Mr. Roques
    March 24, 2013

    Well, were we satisfied with horsepower? We will never be but to be honest, who really needs it? Its marketing 101… companies need to come out with something to sell new products, and to do that, they need to prove that the new is better than the old… the easiest way is to say: 350 HP > 300 HP! Same thing happens with technology.

  20. Brian Fuller
    March 25, 2013

    @Adeniji, you're quite correct. Not fun at all (unless the game players came out on the “track” after the race and fought each other, as we're seeing in NASCAR racing in the U.S. these days!). 

    Your point raises a completely different thread about where sports is headed globally. Every major sport has its video game and its statistics-based fantasy leagues. I think they collide at some point in the very near future. 


  21. Brian Fuller
    March 25, 2013

    @WilliamK, yes, I believe both Mercedes and BMW have luxury models that will self-drive in conditions under 25 mph. I was chatting with a Linear Technology co-founder recently who has a model (it's a few years old actually) that he loves because in slow-and-go Silicon Valley traffic he lets it drive itself. 

    On your other point, I'll see what we can do… you're referring to the animated aspect of the ad?


  22. William K.
    March 25, 2013

    Yes, Brian, the animated aspect of the ad that keeps attempting to distract me from what I am reading. Almost as bad as that “bobble head” that neither one of us liked very much.

    A slow moving self-drive feature could be quite useful for those who get into lots of slow traffic. I am mostly able to avoid that situation, except on I94 through Indiana between Chicago and the Michigan border.

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