Editor   18 Mar 2015   Internet Governance

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Is the car a place for pleasure, fun, and relaxation? Or rather a source of anxiety, where drivers lose their way or get stuck in traffic jams? Or perhaps it increasingly looks like a mobile office?

Internet-related technology and the possibilities offered by applications for smartphones and other devices have progressed and advanced so that they offer almost everything within a so-called connected car.

This includes filming the road, automatically calling for help in an emergency, and multiple options and opportunities as vehicular locations, or entertainment.

Perhaps a device connects the vehicle and its occupants to the surrounding world in real time, or it could be an embedded system fixed into the car.

The traditional perspective of driving and the corresponding conception of cars have to be reviewed through a windscreen of technical improvements and technological progress and breakthroughs.

In 2015, the clichéd driver who carefully shifts gear, with only the radio and or even a DVD screen as entertainment, seems really outdated. The 85th Auto Show in Geneva was a great introduction to the growing incorporation of new technologies that has radically changed both our driving experience and reshaped our conception of cars.

The world of fully connected cars

Meet Autobox: an Internet key that plugs in and brings the Internet into the car with dedicated services for the driver and their passengers. Eight devices can connect simultaneously through a shared connection. Backseat squabbles are a thing of the past as all family members can choose their own particular form of entertainment. For the driver, it provides Infotrafic Navigation; other devices like radio, or even GPS, look obsolete.

Some car manufacturers have gone a step further. Mercedes-Benz, whose logo is similar to the peace and love sign, integrates its Internet device into the car so from the moment you buy your Mercedes, you are connected and can enjoy Internet benefits without having to plug into anything. Simply choose the Wifi In-Car hotspot option and Mercedes-Benz fully integrates the Internet universe into your car. This Wifi In-Car terminal allows up to four devices to connect at the same time, including laptops, netbooks, tablet computers, and smartphones, and ensures a stable and fast connection with the external antenna while the router is embedded in the trunk. The Wifi In-Car hotspot supports such common transmission standards as GSM, EDGE, UMTS and HSDPA and can reach a connexion flow speed of 7.2MB/second. Thanks to this In-Car technology all news, important information, the latest songs, and much more are displayed on the COMAND APS screen. In addition to a user-friendly Internet browser, the COMAND APS system has a really interesting web-radio function allowing the customer to search for radio stations through an online database by using keywords or URLs. It can also read voices in five languages (English, French, German, Italian, and Dutch).

For Karl Thomas Neumann, CEO of Opel, the offer of connectivity and Internet technology is probably the most important novelty presented at the Geneva Motor Show this year. The OpelOnStar system, with a Wifi connection installed in the car, will be included in all new Opel models, and agreements and partnerships offering free roaming ‒ when connecting in another country for example ‒ for the first year of use have been concluded with some operators. The system is partly based on a connection through a smartphone but also offers the possibility to connect up to seven devices at the same time. An assistance system routed through a call centre and based on the precise location of the vehicle is also available.

For its part, Volkswagen proposes the option of transposing the driver’s mobile phone screen to the car’s navigation display. This way drivers feels completely comfortable with the configuration, an interface they already knows.

Hyundai’s position is even more geared towards the future of connectivity. Indeed the Korean brand offers double connectivity based on two devices connected to the car: a mobile phone and a connected watch. The Blue Link application previously reserved for smartphones, tablets and other bigger devices is now reduced to a connected wrist version. The main point of this watch is to offer possibilities to remotely lock and unlock doors and even start the car. No more need for keys. Applications developed for this watch-connectivity enable drivers to easily find their car in a packed garage or airport terminal.  

Focus on the Rolls Royce Ghost

But when it comes to cars, the king of new technology is undoubtedly Rolls Royce. The Angel brand offers models with the most developed and refined technological advances. With the rotary knob, Spirit of Ecstasy, customers can control their choice of entertainment through the home cinema system all integrated at the rear, from doors to back seats and boot. But Rolls Royce doesn’t just focus on entertainment; this limousine also has the professional in mind. The high-resolution 9.2-inch screen is controlled independently, enabling professional video calls and conferences so no more time wasted in a traffic jam. The pool of targeted customers is expanding. These €500 000 cars are no longer the exclusive playthings of the rich and famous; businessmen are increasingly taking advantage of this in-car technology, as evidenced by the crowd of mid-level entrepreneurs who besieged the Rolls Royce stand earlier this week.

The car is more and more seen as a work tool which can save time and increase efficiency. The union of pleasure and usefulness is a perfect blend, a blend much-sought after, if this year’s Geneva Auto Show is anything to go by.

Milos Hranisavljevic from DiploFoundation attended the 85th Auto Show in Geneva on 9 March.

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