"Connected Cars" is one of the defining trends in the global auto industry today. All of the world’s major car manufacturers are working hard on developing vehicles that have wireless Internet access and offer their users a multitude of digital services. Both Google and Apple have already launched specialized extensions and user interfaces that enable drivers to seamlessly integrate their Android and iOS smartphones with their cars’ on-board electronic systems.
Now Volkswagen, the world’s largest car manufacturer, is making its move. According to the Droid-Life tech blog, most 2016 VW models will provide the option of an in-car entertainment system (formerly known as "car radio") featuring VW’s new App-Connect technology, which integrates the car’s electronic systems with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. VW’s new hyper-connective on-board computer, Car-Net, will, however, not be available for entry-level models, says Droid-Life. Other sources report that the ageing VW Eos and Touareg models will also have to do without.
Apart from controlling App-Connect, VW’s Car-Net system also provides "Security & Service" and "Guide & Inform" functionality. The package includes a navigator, an SOS and tracking function as well as a number of communication services. VW has also announced plans for a new Apple Watch app that will enable users to remotely open their car’s doors and check its fuel level. Unlike conventional on-board computers, Car-Net will attract a US$18 monthly subscription fee once its six-month free trial period has expired, Droid-Life says.
VW’s new in-car entertainment system is designed to be compatible with most smartphone operating systems – even Nokia’s somewhat dated MirrorLink OS. But not all car manufacturers have taken this inclusive approach. In fact, many support only one of the two dominant operating systems. Many smartwatch apps that enable vehicle remote monitoring will only work on the Apple Watch, and not on Android Wear-based smartwatches. So will this smart device/car compatibility issue affect the purchasing decisions of consumers in the future? It’s a good question, and one that will become very relevant very soon, considering forecasts such as this one: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2970017
While other forecasts will no doubt arrive at different figures, industry experts agree that the number of connected cars on our roads will rise rapidly. The same can, of course, be said for the security requirements that car on-board electronic systems will have to meet in the future – an important point which was aptly illustrated by Chrysler’s recent recall of over 1 million of its vehicles following a well-publicized hacker attack.