Cars Are Now Getting 4G Connectivity

by Aeyne Schriber on December 27, 2014 in Internet of Things

With new technologies, auto makers and consumers alike are realizing that a car can be an exceptional mobile device. This is because a car provides a generous amount of room for implementing the latest technologies.

Because of the increased use of mobile technologies, auto manufacturers are creating vehicles that are basically designed like a data center on wheels. A car can provide an ample amount of space for installing wireless antennas, LCD screens, advanced GPS technology, and multiple computer processors that serve a variety of functions.

Up until recently, the few cars that were equipped with mobile technologies exhibited limitations in terms of performance speed. Some of the vehicles built in recent years are only capable of connectivity speeds of approximately 1 Mbps (megabit per second). This was eventually improved to offer 3G connectivity. It was not until recently that automobile manufacturers started to include 4G which is capable of connecting at speeds of up to 5 Mbps or more.

Automobiles such as the Audi A3, Cadillac ATS, Chevrolet, Buick, and others are being designed to offer a mobile hotspot that serves multiple passengers, in addition to providing the driver with a way to connect their smartphone or tablet PC. This is accomplished without being a distraction to the driver by connecting to 4G via your car and then accessing apps that use a touchscreen. This prevents you from having to stare at your mobile device and enables you to keep your eyes on the road where they belong.

When your car can be used as a personal hotspot, the faster performance speed that 4G provides enhances traffic safety. 4G allows auto manufacturers to implement two-way video calling that ensures your eyes stay on the road while you are holding a conversation and improved audio that allows you to enjoy state-of-the art sound while watching traffic.

4G also keeps your passengers occupied which results in less distractions while driving to your destination. Technologies such as high definition video streaming and gaming for multiplayers on Xbox One keep your passengers focused which makes long trips safer and more pleasant.

To provide you with a general overview of the types of technologies that are being implemented with 4G, here are a few projects the automobile manufacturers have been working on with specific car models.

Google Maps and Street View in the 2014 Audi A3

The new Audi A3 is equipped with 4G connectivity which uses the AT&T network. This allows you to add the Audi A3 to an existing data plan you may have with AT&T. Or, you can opt to use a data plan which is offered exclusively by Audi which provides a six month free trial with the option to purchase a plan for anywhere from six to 30 months at a time. Similar to a typical cellular data plan, if you exceed your data allotment, you are required to purchase additional data.

Included in Audi’s 4G technology is the ability to access Google Earth and Street View which automatically appears and helps you to find your way as soon as you start your vehicle. To activate the hotspot and allow your passengers to connect, you must place the vehicle in accessory mode. This allows passengers to connect with their smartphone or tablet PC to access a broad range of apps with 4G connectivity.

There are also a variety of built-in car apps such as apps that allow you to browse fuel prices and check the weather to apps that provide access to social media. Like any type of 4G connection, the performance speeds will vary according to your current location and the time of day you are accessing the service.

The following video talks about the Audi A3 with 4G connectivity.

OnStar 4G in the 2015 Cadillac ATS

GM just rolled out a smaller version of the full-sized XTS Cadillac model known as the ATS with 4G connectivity. The flagship service used with 4G is the OnStar 4G LTE which allows an OnStar technician to run a diagnostic test on your car when you call them with any issues. The technician can diagnose problems or assist you with any questions using the data connection capability, even while you are driving on the road.

The OnStar 4G service is gradually being implemented in other GM vehicles with an additional thirty autos that will be equipped with OnStar technology within a matter of months. Currently, GM allows a three month free trial for the OnStar service in the Cadillac ATS which runs on the AT&T service. You can choose to purchase a plan through GM by the day or via an annual subscription. You can also opt to add your auto to an existing AT&T plan for an additional $10 per month plus shared data.

The OnStar service allows you to use your car as a wireless hotspot by simply pressing the OnStar button which is conveniently located on the rear view mirror. GM equips the Cadillac ATS with a preconfigured network including SSID name and password which accommodates up to seven users. You can also choose to create your own network and password as well.

GM has also equipped with Cadillac ATS with an enhanced antenna that is stronger than the typical antenna included in smartphone devices. The antenna contains technology designed to ensure a consistent data connection as you travel among different cell phone towers. As long as the vehicle is moving, the built-in hotspot power supply will never be depleted. When you turn off the car engine, you can activate Accessory Mode which will allow you to use the hotspot for up to sixty minutes.

When tested with the SpeedSmart iPhone app, the 4G connection was capable of reaching performance speeds of anywhere from 6 Mbps to 10 Mbps depending upon the location.

The following video provides a visual demonstration on how the OnStar service works for the Cadillac ATG.

Tech Embedded Dashboard in the Chevrolet Impala

Instead of converting your automobile into a something that syncs with your mobile devices, GM has recently taken a different approach. The auto giant has recently implemented technology that makes your car the mobile device, as opposed to simply syncing with it.

GM’s new and upcoming auto models are being equipped with a tech embedded dashboard that converts your car into a large wireless hotspot with a built-in AppShop and 4G connectivity. The technology was recently introduced in the Chevrolet Impala at the SXSW (South By Southwest) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas.

SXSW is a four-day event that demonstrates the latest cutting edge technologies, digital creativity projects, and startup ideas. At the SXSW Festival, the 2014 Chevrolet Impala was demonstrated with the beta version of the new tech embedded dashboard.

When you get into the Impala, you are greeted with a center console that has a tablet with a bright touchscreen embedded in the unit. The tablet with touchscreen includes built-in apps that add to the car’s features and functionality. The apps include but are not limited to, those such as Priceline which allow you to easily find hotel accommodations at a discount, weather apps, streaming music apps, and much more.

The embedded tech dashboard is designed for traffic safety with features that are intuitive and easy to use. This eliminates hassles with having to navigate through complex menus. Plus, the voice command functionality ensures that your eyes are on the road instead of the touchscreen. You can also use the voice commands to speak with a technician at OnStar without having to fumble with the touchscreen icons.

Another traffic safety feature GM has included is the inability to use the onscreen keyboard while your car is in gear. This feature is purposely included to discourage people from texting while driving. Although it still means they can use their smartphone, it is a step forward toward increased traffic safety. Additionally, when the hotspot is activated, you can connect up to seven different devices simultaneously which keeps your passengers occupied on long trips.

In terms of the App Shop, GM plans to release more than a dozen apps for Chevrolets as an initial introduction. Although this is a lot less than what you find in the Google Play and iTunes stores, GM plans to continually release new apps to increase its inventory over time.

The GM platform is also available to app developers to increase the possibilities for new apps that can be downloaded to the embedded tech console. Initially, all of the apps are free of cost which will likely change in the future as the inventory expands.

According to Chevrolet, the AppShop and 4G connectivity will be made available in the 2014 car models which are equipped with the MyLink infotainment system. This is a system that is implemented in specific models of Chevrolets which provides a full color touchscreen to access music and entertainment, as well as pair your smartphone via a USB connection.

Chevrolet is installing the tech embedded dashboards in models such as the Impala, Silverado, Malibu, and Corvette that have the MyLink system installed. Like the other cars we have mentioned in this article, the tech embedded tech dashboard runs on the AT&T service. When you subscribe to a data plan, you have a vehicle that acts as a mobile hotspot with a connection that is always-on. Plus, if you already have an existing AT&T plan, you can add your vehicle as part of the MobileShare plan.

Here is more information on test driving the Chevrolet 4G LTE connected car and the AppShop.

OnStar 4G and Navigation in Buick Cars

Buick is also implementing 4G connectivity in certain car models for release during 2015. Any time your vehicle engine is on, the hotspot is active and ready to connect to up to seven different devices.

The 4G technology and components are designed to provide fast performance and a reliable connection. The wireless hotspot is powered by the auto components to avoid depleting your battery on your mobile device.

Buicks are being equipped with the OnStar technology we described earlier which provides you with convenient access to emergency services, weather alerts, and more. If you break down on the road, the OnStar service is readily available to assist you or someone else that has been victim to an unexpected event. OnStar will also assist local law enforcement in the event your vehicle is stolen.

The convenient navigation feature allows you to plan your trips in advance and then input the route into the OnStar service in your vehicle. Then you simply press the OnStar button to access the route during travel.

The built-in wireless 4G connection allows you to convert your vehicle to a mobile hotspot. The hotspot is capable of providing a generous amount of bandwidth to accommodate multiple devices.

Additionally, OnStar provides you with a five year service known as RemoteLink Key Fob. This service allows you to use your smartphone to send travel directions to your vehicle as well as unlock and lock your car using your smartphone. There is also access to the OnStar diagnostic service that helps you to efficiently manage and receive assistance with any problems or questions.

The Future of 4G Connectivity in Cars

As of currently, 4G connectivity in cars mean that you and your passengers can connect to a mobile hotspot to access content and entertainment during travel. It also means that you can use apps associated with the Internet of Things to control devices in your home while you are on the road.

4G also means improved traffic safety since it is designed to remove the typical distractions using voice commands while you are driving. Your children will also stay occupied since they are able to connect their devices to the mobile hotspot and enjoy entertainment while you are traveling to your destination. Having a connection that is fast and reliable means everyone in the car can access the connection without any disruptions.

Although the above purposes are what 4G in cars means at the moment, automobile manufacturers are planning to move more toward diagnostics in the near future. According to the CTO of OnStar, the next phase of 4G connectivity is to focus on auto diagnostics. Previously technicians could not easily connect to your car over a slower 3G connection. For this reason, 4G connectivity means better diagnostics.

Instead of simply being geared toward navigation, technical assistance, entertainment, and other purposes, 4G will eventually allow you to connect to other vehicles, roads, traffic control centers, and much more, using a wireless signal. Currently under testing is Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) which provides a wireless signal that is tightly controlled.

DSRC is currently in the testing phase in an effort to meet the requirements of future technologies for cars that can drive without a driver using sensors that watch for traffic problems and autonomously using the steering, speed, and braking controls to navigate through traffic. In this case, a tightly controlled secure connection is critical to safety.

The ultimate plan is to eventually have all cars connecting to a centralized grid and an entire car network that automatically adjusts to vehicle accidents, road construction, and traffic flow without the need for road signs, traffic lights, and other tools we currently use to find our way during travel.

Although this technology is still far off, 4G connectivity has already opened up the possibilities and given us a glimpse into the future and what is about to come.

The Self-Learning Auto

When you look into the future, the possibilities are endless when you combine wireless connectivity with automobile technology. The 4G connectivity that is already being implemented in vehicles will have a profound effect on how emergencies are handled, such as the ability of paramedics to communicate via video to share digital images of a specific situation with a doctor at a hospital and receive advice directly in the ambulance or on the site of the emergency. This will save lives that would otherwise be jeopardized during the trip to the nearest medical facility.

In terms of personal vehicles, wireless connectivity will make your vehicle an extension of your office or living room. Connectivity will allow your passengers to access the same content they would in their living room and enables business professionals to easily videoconference while traveling to their destination.

The combination of wireless and automotive technologies will result in the self-learning auto. This is a vehicle that takes personal information, updates in real-time, and contextual data and combines it to create a completely customized driving experience.

In terms of being a self-learning auto, the intelligence that is gathered by your car’s system will provide the car with the information it needs to adapt to your behavior. This will save time programming navigation systems and other controls since the car will be readily available to make suggestions based on your past behavior.

Again, a lot of this type of technology has some time to go before it can be initiated. However, it will provide you with a sense of where the automobile industry is headed and how it can create a personalized user experience that is added to a technology that has been around for a long time.

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