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The challenges of car connectivity

Posted: 23 Sep 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:car connectivity? car electronics challenges? automotive trend?

Many cars already connect to iPods, cellphones and other personal electronic devices. In the not-so-distant future, cars will also connect to the Internet, other cars and roadside systems. For automakers and automotive suppliers, this trend toward ubiquitous connectivity presents many opportunities, but also many challenges.

Take, for example, connectivity to personal electronics. Consumers today want to use their MP3 players and smart phones even while they drive. They also expect to be constantly connected, using their portable devices to "Tweet," "Facebook" or geotag throughout the day. It is only a matter of time before consumers demand that the car becomes an extension of this plugged-in lifestyle. For automakers, the opportunity is clear: If they can help the consumer stay connected in a safe, reliable and legal fashion, they can differentiate their brand and build customer loyalty.

The problem is the automobile must always play catch-up. In the personal electronics industry, it takes six to 18 months to bring a product to market. But in the auto industry, where a new product must be planned into the vehicle's manufacturing process and undergo far greater testing and validation, the process often takes 3 or more years. As a further complication, an in-vehicle system that connects to personal electronics must stay relevant for at least 10 years. But how can it do that if the MP3 players of today become the 8-tracks of tomorrow?

To address some of these problems, automotive engineers can implement systems with modular, upgradeable software architectures. In other cases, they can keep content and applications up to date by moving functionality from embedded modules to the Internet.

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