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3 More Things We Need Before Cars Are Fully Connected To The Web

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Chevrolet Wi-Fi by Autonet Mobile

Chevrolet Wi-Fi by Autonet Mobile

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Yesterday, Robert Acker wrote an article for Mashable about the five things that automakers must do in order to make web-connected cars attractive to mainstream consumers. Acker's comments are insightful -- we wouldn't expect anything less from the GM of from Aha Radio -- but we have a few more items to add to the wish list.

In a nutshell, Acker argues that automakers need to focus on making web integration safer, simpler, and more consistent from one vehicle to the next. We agree, but we envision a slightly different approach to the problems at hand. We suggest that car companies:

1. Make the mobile phone central
Acker sees a divide between mobile phones and the infotainment systems found in cars. We don't think that's quite right. People spend far more time with their mobile phones than in their cars -- so much so that many of us feel lost without them. They're where we store our personal contacts, retrieve our email, pull info from the web, and more. In fact, countries like the U.S. and Great Britain have more cell phones than citizens.

In other words, we're comfortable with our mobile phones, and we have lots of important data stored on them. Integrating them into the infotainment experience seems like a no-brainer. To do that effectively, however, we strongly suggest that automakers...

2. Make mobile phone integration simpler
Cables are terrible -- seriously, how much would you pay to clear out the jumble of wires clogging up your desk or the backside of your entertainment center? And Bluetooth? Don't even get us started. Please, just give us an effortless, easy way to sync our phones to our cars in the blink of an eye. How about allowing us to "check in" to our vehicles like we already do with Foursquare, but passively? As all our data moves to the cloud, automatically checking-in to our cars would provide seamless, hassle-free access to music, maps, and other important personalized content. (The groundwork for this sort of arrangement might be similar to a plan Acker mentions that's already offered by France Telecom.)

3. Help build the connected car infrastructure
We've seen numerous apps designed to make driving safer. Just last month, General Motors said that centering such vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology around mobile phones was a great idea: after all, people upgrade their phones far more often than they upgrade their rides, meaning that improvements can roll out faster to smartphones than to automobiles. Now, we just need automakers to find ways to facilitate communication between smartphones and the grid.

In other words: automakers, please give us the V2V communications that we want, but use our smartphones to do it. This probably isn't so much a matter of investing in apps as it is investing in the infrastructure elements that make that V2V system work (e.g. satellites, grid enhancements). Partnering with key organizations and communities -- as Ford and the Department of Transportation have done -- could help speed things along.

If you have more items you'd like to add to this connected-car wish list, drop us a note in the comments below.

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Comments (2)
  1. Thanks for picking up the conversation. Although it doesn't make for as exciting a dialogue, I actually agree with your additional points. The phone and increasingly the cloud will be central to people's electronic lives and designers who think they can replace that central position with car electronics are delusional. However, the car can do a much better job at presenting a driver-optimized user experience to access all that data in the cloud and on your phone.

    I also agree that phone integration needs to be much simpler and ideally can be done passively like I mentioned but even a very simple "active" technique like an NFC reader in the steering column or dash would be much better than cables or BT for identifying yourself/checking in
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  2. At the risk of turning this into a love-fest, I agree with all that. The display issue has to be addressed ASAP -- I recall seeing one unit that basically mirrored the display of the smartphone connected to it, but without accounting for resolution changes (or inappropriate apps). I may not be the right person to figure out how to make this work, but I know it ain't rocket science.

    And NFC sounds like a great solution for syncing. I wouldn't be surprised to see that roll out as NFC becomes more common on U.S. mobile phones.
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