Feb 15 2016

Smartphones Are the Keys to Unlocking the Connected Car

Mobile technology is disrupting the automobile, bringing personalization and optimization to the car-driving experience.

Much was made of the growing automaker presence at the recent 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But it shouldn’t be all that surprising, given that a typical premium-class car depends on about 100 million lines of code (compared with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with only about 6.5 million lines of code).

Cars have become IT networks on wheels. With the growth of connectivity in cars and autonomous driving, technology clearly has an strengthening hold on the auto industry. At the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, smartphone and mobile technology in particular made their presence known.

With its access to personal apps and content, the smartphone has become the key that turns a car into a personalized experience. Mobile devices have transformed enterprise IT, and now the mobile revolution is knocking on the door of the automobile world.

Personalize Your Ride

Ford showed off its SYNC 3, the latest version of its onboard infotainment system for making phone calls, listening to music and accessing other applications. Some of SYNC’s features can be used on their own, while others can be paired (and personalized) with the driver’s smartphone. Controls are accessed via voice command, through steering wheel controls or through an LCD display in the dashboard.

Chevy offers a similar native system, called MyLink, in its 2016 models, comparable to Ford’s SYNC: an onboard system with access to apps such as SiriusXM satellite radio and OnStar Turn-by-Turn navigation. For those who want to personalize their driving experience, MyLink can be greatly enhanced when paired with a smartphone. Aftermarket infotainment systems are available as well.

Mopar (a Fiat Chrysler brand that specializes in parts, services and customer care) offers a different approach, called Connect. Drivers who purchase this subscription service download the Mopar Connect Smartphone app, which allows them to remotely start or stop the car engine, lock and unlock car doors, open the trunk, and activate the horns and lights. Other services available include car alarm notifications, teen driver curfew management, car locator, geo zones, speed tracker, valet mode, additional parental controls and mobile Wi-Fi.

Car Technology Prioritizes Safety First

Mopar Connect’s emphasis on teen driver safety highlights one of the unexpected benefits of bringing the smartphone into the driving experience. Distracted driving — by both teen and adult drivers — has become a serious concern; why not use the very technology that causes the problem to solve it? Many of Mopar Connect’s app services deliver text alerts to the car owner’s smartphone, notifying parents if a teen driver exceeds specified geographic or time limits while driving.

But other onboard systems take it a step further. Ford’s SYNC includes a “do not disturb” mode that blocks incoming phone calls and text messages to any phone paired with the system. And the MyLink available in Chevy’s 2016 Malibu will include Teen Drive, which mutes the radio until front-seat passengers are buckled into their seats, among other safety features. It’s not hard to see the value of these safety systems for enterprises as well, especially those with on-the-road sales people or fleets of company vehicles.

Alex Slagg

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