Auto Industry Should Watch Out for Connected Cars

Oct 15, 2014 05:02 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

The most insidious threat to the auto industry's status quo isn't a still-faltering economy or even increasingly restrictive emissions regulations--it's the possibility that one day consumers will buy cars based on the platforms they run rather than out of auto brand loyalty.

Google, Apple and Blackberry have all entered the car game with connected vehicle systems that bring your ride much closer to being a computer on wheels. Some believe that people won't even own cars in the future, instead moving to a ride-sharing model when it comes to transportation.

"We are entering the era of smart mobility," Thilo Koslowski, lead automotive analyst with technology consultants Gartner, told the Detroit News last month. "The car will have more capabilities, and will harness communication to bring a future life style into the vehicle."

Besides the risks that connected cars will be hacked or even used in devious ways by criminals, the new technology puts long-standing auto brands in a precarious position. Will cars of the future be Android, iOS or Windows cars instead of Toyota, Mercedes and Chevrolet?

Whether or not they end up taking over the auto industry, here are some of the ways tech companies have made their mark with connected cars.

Google

Over the summer, the Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant announced a slew of new Android products that included Android Drive, a voice-enabled vehicle system. Using location context, Android Drive gives you nearby restaurant listings, and it also sends messages, plays music and makes calls, according to Engadget.

Google launched the Open Automotive Alliance in January, bringing together a collective of tech and auto companies such as General Motors, Honda and Audi, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. The group had reached 40 members by the summer, bringing on names like Chevy, Chrysler, Hyundai, Maserati and Volvo.

Apple

Available on various models starting this year, Apple's CarPlay system connects your iPhone to your car's built-in display. Using Siri voice command and implementing your car's controls, CarPlay provides directions, traffic conditions and estimated travel time as well as answering texts and making calls.

According to recent reports from MacRumors and other outlets, some users have had issues connecting their iPhones with the cars after the iOS 8 update. Cars from BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, Ford, Lexus, and Hyundai are having Bluetooth connectivity issues.

Reported problems include the devices refusing to pair entirely, neglecting to play audio over the speakers or disconnecting when a call comes in, according to MacRumors. But installing iOS 8.1 has fixed the problem for some users.

Blackberry

Once the ubiquitous personal assistants, Blackberry devices have fallen behind Apple and Google when it comes to the smartphone market. The company has been working to stay relevant partly by making cars connected with the QNX operating system that powers the BlackBerry 10.

"QNX is one of the more, if not the most valuable, assets in the company right now," Mark Boyadjis, an analyst at IHS Automotive in Minnetonka, Minn., told Bloomberg Businessweek back in March. "That advantage will help carry them as they fight the titans Google and Apple in the future."

Part of a 2010 acquisition that cost BlackBerry $2 billion, the QNX system has been implemented into vehicles made by Chrysler, Hyundai and Jaguar Land Rover.

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