Is it possible to surf the Net or check e-mails while zooming along in the fast lane? Or access apps and personal data stored online? Maybe call a customer about a lucrative deal? There’s good news for technophiles who feel most comfortable when surrounded by all the gadgets that they use both at home and at work, wherever they might find themselves.
The smart automobile is set to create new business models for the economy. Up to now, the majority of drivers still haven’t been able to completely harmonize driving and doing business. They might be well networked at the office, at home, in hotel rooms, and at the airport, but productivity stops once they get into the driver’s seat. Navigation systems, cell phones, and radios ensure that they can maintain contact with the big wide world, but their appointment schedule becomes meaningless as soon as they hit the first major traffic jam.
What’s more, the ever-coveted Internet access is only available in luxury class automobiles. However, things could be about to change. According to T-Systems and Continental, Internet will become available even in small vehicles in the coming years. It still won’t be cheap, but it will no longer be a key differentiator. The trend is toward large screens (10 inches and more) in the instrument panel, which also contain radio, telephone, navigation, and onboard computer functions.
What’s more, automobile manufacturers will soon be facing a serious challenge: According to a study by the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, today’s 18 to 25 year-olds will no longer be as attached to their automobiles as previous generations. For a third of young people, owning a car has no emotional value and is no longer a status symbol. Instead, they are more interested in functionality.
The automobile of the future is destined to become part of our networked lives. For example, future car owners will check fuel levels at home using their PC or notebook. And while they are on the road, they’ll reserve hotel rooms or switch on the coffee maker in their smart apartment. It’ll be a matter of months before this becomes reality. At Volkswagen, the idea is known as Connected World, Mercedes-Benz calls its research project myCOMAND, and BMW has a concept dubbed ConnectedDrive. Currently, these are costly extras for luxury class cars – and don’t provide nearly as many functions as smartphones or notebooks.
In-Car Apps, Internet, and E-Mail Services
While in-car services currently focus on enhanced telematics, T-Systems and Continental are developing a multimedia system that combines navigation, Internet, and apps. With AutoLinQ, the two companies plan to offer in-car services similar to those provided by smartphones and PCs, starting in 2012.
At a joint conference in Munich, all the functions were demonstrated on a Volkswagen Passat CC. AutoLinQ, which was developed by Continental and is based on the RNS 510 radio navigation system, can, for example, identify songs that are being played on the radio and save them to the integrated hard disk. There’s also an appointment calendar and an online address book that’s synchronized with the navigation system.
Drivers can use AutoLinQ to manage all their data and apps – and they can also access it from their notebook at home or in the office. For the operating system, Continental and T-Systems have opted for Android. The system is due to be tested on and adapted for a range of premium automobiles, before it becomes generally available.