As Internet became more common in homes and offices, it was widely expected that soon it would also 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 six per cent of new vehicles). So, after many false dawns, what has changed? According to report author, Jon Cropley, “The two main factors are the growing popularity of downloadable apps and improvements in cellular technology.”
“The two main factors are the growing popularity of downloadable apps and improvements in cellular technology.”
Over the last three years, downloading software applications to cell phones with Internet access has become very popular. This has caused those in the automotive industry to consider the viability of apps for use in the vehicle. Already developed apps include weather reports at the destination and reading out emails to drivers. The report forecasts that sales of in-vehicle apps will grow rapidly to over $4 billion in 2017.
Improvements in cellular technology will also help. 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, with early wide availability of 3G, had the most vehicles with Internet access in 2009). Deployment of next-generation (4G) technology not only will make in-vehicle Internet access faster but will also support new services that were not previously feasible. Research from car manufacturers concludes that in-vehicle Internet access will be popular enough to influence the choice of car.
However, in-vehicle Internet has its high-profile critics who fear it will distract drivers. The automotive industry is therefore faced with the big challenge of providing the Internet access that consumers want, without compromising road safety.