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Blurring the line between cars and smartphones

Posted: 10 Jan 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smartphone  car  LTE  infotainment 

Car OEMs are cozying up with software developers more than ever before. Ford Motor Co., courting smartphone app developers, is launching what it claims as the industry first developer conference for automotive apps.

Apps stores are also becoming crucial for car OEMs working on app-intensive cars. GM announced that it would offer an AppShop through its MyLink infotainment system. The AppShop will be an icon on the homescreen that allows users to download available apps and then customise the car's homescreen.

Any Chevrolet optioned with MyLink and AppShop will automatically come with 4G LTE capability. GM said more apps are coming, but for now initial apps include iHeartRadio,, The Weather Channel, NPR, Slacker Radio, TuneIn Radio, Cityseeker, Eventseeker, Glympse and Kaliki.

Among a host of automotive announcements at CES, one of the highlights was Google, which, as we predicted last month, announced a partnership aimed at bringing Android-powered infotainment systems to the car OEMs' vehicle line-up. The industry alliance, called "The Open Automotive Alliance (OAA)" includes four of the top 10 automakers, Audi, General Motors, Hyundai and Honda, and a chip vendor Nvidia.

Delphi shows off its cloud-based automotive connectivity system added to Fiat

Figure 2: Delphi shows off its cloud-based automotive connectivity system added to Fiat.

Google, which has taken a page out of its mobile playbook, is applying it to the automotive market. OAA closely resembles another industry alliance, called the Open Handset Alliance, which Google has been leading to drive commercial development of Android for mobile devices.

Undoubtedly, the connected car is a boon to mobile chip vendors. Aside from Nvidia, the cellular chip giant Qualcomm is moving into a connected car market big time.

Qualcomm unveiled early Monday morning an auto-grade Snapdragon SoC. The company is leveraging its strong presence in the in-car cellular modem market to advance automakers' telematics business. The mobile chip giant is also joining the brewing in-vehicle infotainment platform battle by introducing Snapdragon automotive solutions.

After having heard all the hype around connected cars, if you are still asking, "Why do I need to have my car connected to the rest of the world?," here's an answer: over the air software updates for your car.

Imagination's VP of strategic marketing Rohatgi talked of his own experience when Tesla's dash suddenly flashed a message of "battery system warning," while he was driving.

Rohatgi had no idea what the message meant and was annoyed by the potential chore of bringing his vehicle into a shop to have it interpreted.

Lo and behold, his car got a phone call, while he was still driving. Tesla's service department was tracking Rohatgi's car. Rohatgi got help from a service person who walked him through the problem over the phone. Eventually it was solved with an over-the-air software update, with Rohatgi still rolling along. Rohatgi never had to bring the car into the shop.

Rohatgi asked, "Have you ever owned a car that could be 'improved' over time?" With over the air software updates, his Tesla gets new features and apps that he didn't have before.

Meanwhile, with Delphi's cloud-based automotive connectivity system, Delphi's Kathy Winter, found, using her phone in Las Vegas, her son's car in Colorado, heading for the ski slopes.

If I were a mother, this would be enough to sell me on the power of connected cars.

- Junko Yoshida
  EE Times

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