Cars And Smartphones: The Future Is Now

October 15, 2010

In the 2004 Will Smith movie, I, Robot, the future is filled with cars that drive themselves, and petroleum's verboten because it's volatile and unsafe. Yes, this future also has evil robots that try to take over the world, but focus on the first part--cars that drive themselves--because that future is now, thanks to Google.

Google's driverless cars grabbed headlines last week. And while we're not fully at the car enthusiast's nightmare just yet, we're close. Smartphone applications have made huge advances quickly, and are replacing some car functions with new technology and apps.

As The New York Times sees it, "most auto dealers will tell you that more buyers ask about how to connect an iPhone to a car or about the latest collision avoidance systems than they do about how quickly a car goes from zero to 60. So automakers are pumping up the technology."

Auto manufacturers are integrating smartphone functions into their own product plans. Ford has applications that enable and interact smartphone software. OnStar is rolling out an app that can lock or unlock your car from anywhere, along with a myriad of other features, depending on your model. The list goes on: automakers from Mercedes to Lexus are jumping into the application pool, and most are aiming for the deep end.

The revolution goes even further in the aftermarket. Carbonga is a good example. A check-engine light used to mean a trip to the dealership or repair shop for an assessment. With Carbonga and their $99 OBD-II connector plug, your iPhone can run the diagnostics from home, and explain why the light came on. Five years ago, this wouldn't have been on the radar for car owners.  Smartphones have changed the world--in that short a time. It's a sea change in how cars not just in how cars are sold, but how they're used--even maintained.

So are we steering into an I, Robot future? Probably not anytime soon, but we already are in a new era of connecting to our cars. It's not the mechanical connection of changing your own oil, but it's just as important. And far more radical than 10-W40.

[New York Times]

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