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Imagine that while driving, you could play music directly from your iTunes or Spotify on your car stereo. It would be nice, wouldn’t it? Imagine if you could also work on Word documents and spreadsheets in your car and they would be saved in cloud, while you are driving. Of course, this work would be done orally. You would just need to dictate to an AI personal assistant while navigating through traffic.

Already, there are cars that receive updates from Google, Facebook and Bloomberg. Just as apps changed the way we use mobile phones, ushering in the era of smartphones, they are also influencing the automobile industry. Tesla’s Model S functions with an updated software that can help you determine when to change lanes on the highway, gives you a warning whenever objects are dangerously close to the side of your car and it has an automatic parallel parking feature too. You know when you go to the mall or cinema and the security man keeps telling you “come forward, no no, reverse small, no no no, cut to this side….” The automatic parallel parking feature cuts that out. It will search out the best parking spot and even do the parallel packing for you. How nice!

At the moment, the technology is mostly hardware based. However, as time progresses, things will change as they already are. WiFi adapters, entertainment hubs on touch screens and voice recognition are already part of automobile technology. In the future, there will be special data plans dedicated to cars. This of course will happen when internet data pricing has been sorted out in more parts of the world.

As time goes on, apps will be more integrated into or will replace some automobile hardware. For example, smartphone apps will replace car keys. Apps are already being used to open car doors, lock them and even drive them out of the garage.

In a New York Times article, Sean O’Gorman talks about how he remotely starts his car’s AC unit with an iPhone app, a few minutes before he gets in. The article also highlights that BMW, General Motors, Volvo and other car manufacturers already offer apps that help “start car engines, unlock the doors, turn on the heat and monitor the car battery.”

As car manufacturers have discovered, the average driver holds on to his car for about 5-10 years. Cars are not like phones that can be changed every nine months, except you are a senator in a certain country. Manufacturers will now focus more on the software applications in the cars and how they can tailor the applications to receive regular updates. Also in the works, is the ‘talking car’ technology. Cars will be able to send signals to each other. This, in its way, will reduce the amount of road accidents caused by human error.

However, there is a question of security here. A McKinsey report shows that not a lot of people are comfortable with the idea of their cars being accessed by other people’s car via wireless connections. Many of them are concerned about their privacy while some are afraid that someone can hack into their car and manipulate it. I have seen movies where car brakes are tampered with and the driver is powerless about this. So the big question here will be how well the manufacturers can guarantee the security of the connections

Another challenge this idea will face is acceptability. The aforementioned report reveals that 37% of the respondents “would not even consider a connected car” and “only 35 percent of new-car buyers said they would spend an additional $100 for smartphone integration, and just 21 percent said they would be willing to pay for subscription-based connectivity services.”

Despite the resistance this idea will face initially, it is important to note that there is no limit to what the marriage between apps and automobiles can achieve. Just as there is no limit to what apps can do with smartphones. It’s only a matter of time before all these ideas catch on and snowball beyond their tipping points.

Photo Credit: Saltank via Compfight cc

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