Internet is Coming to Cars
Date: 20 August 2010
As Internet became more common in homes and offices, it was widely expected to be only a matter of time before it would be common in light vehicles. Despite this, Internet access in light vehicles remains relatively rare in most countries today. A recent report from IMS Research
claims that this is about to change. “The World Market for OE In-vehicle Telematics” forecasts that globally, the number of new vehicles with Internet access will grow from 1.1 million in 2009 to 6.0 million in 2017 (about 6% of new vehicles). So, after many false dawns, what has changed to prompt this new growth phase? According to report author, Jon Cropley, “The two main factors are the growing popularity of downloadable apps and improvements in cellular technology”.
One of the most prominent trends in mobile communications in the last three years has been consumers downloading software applications to cell phones that have Internet access. The massive popularity of this has caused those in the automotive industry to consider the viability of apps for use in the vehicle. Apps that have already been developed include weather reports for your destination and having your emails read aloud to you while driving. The report forecasts that the use of in-vehicle apps will grow rapidly and that this market will be worth more than $4 billion in 2017.
The other factor fuelling growing numbers of new vehicles with Internet access is improvements in cellular technology. Early generations of cellular technology did not transfer data fast enough for in-vehicle Internet to be viable. Third-generation (3G) technology has changed this, and is now widely available in most developed countries (Japan was one of the first countries to have wide availability of 3G; and was estimated to have the most vehicles with Internet access in 2009). Deployment of next-generation cellular technologies (commonly known as 4G) will not only make in-vehicle Internet access faster but it will also allow new services that were not previously feasible.
In-vehicle Internet is not without its critics. A number of high profile individuals have expressed concerns that it will distract drivers. Despite this, many vehicle manufacturers have conducted their own research showing that in-vehicle Internet would be a very popular feature. The ability to access the Internet would strongly encourage many customers to purchase a particular vehicle. The automotive industry is therefore faced with the big challenge of providing the Internet access that consumers want, without compromising road safety.
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