Verizon Looks To Add 4G LTE To The Car Of The Future
June 8, 2012

Verizon Looks To Add 4G LTE To The Car Of The Future

Being connected, anytime and anywhere, is becoming an ubiquitous reality in our mobile world, and to demonstrate that reality, Verizon Communications is taking control of the wheel and steering us down the mobile highway to a mobile connectivity in a whole new way.

Launching its 4G Venture Forum for Connected Cars, Verizon is pushing for LTE integration into the dashboards of several new car models, including those manufactured by BMW, Honda, Hyundai and Kia.

Verizon said its new program “will collaborate and explore ways to deliver connectivity to vehicles of all types, by leveraging open standards and discussing ways to accelerate development of the 4G LTE ecosystem across automotive OEMs, suppliers, device manufacturers, application developers and content publishers.”

The world´s leading wireless company announced on Wednesday it is partnering with several global car manufacturers and will work closely with them to “accelerate the pace of innovation” of automotive connectivity.

Along with auto makers, which also includes Toyota, Verizon´s 4G Venture Forum for Connected Cars will also include Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Sanjay Sarma.

What´s notably surprising, however, is the non-presence of Detroit´s Big Three automakers. Verizon has worked closely with US carmakers on concept vehicles and apps in the past, and with Ford and GM´s aggressive stance on exploring the development of connectivity in the automobile industry, it is really surprising not to see them part of the new Verizon venture.

The absence could just be a matter of timing -- especially since 4G Venture Forum just went into gear. But it could mean that Ford and GM´s current vision for connectivity isn´t quite on track with what Verizon has in mind.

According to some industry watchers, US automakers do not necessarily want LTE embedded in the dashboards of their cars. The Big Three are apparently more concerned with embedded radios for emergency services and vehicle-to-vehicle telematics, and when it comes to infotainment, they may rather see you bring your own connectivity than supply it for you.

Ford´s Sync system, and Cadillac´s CUE, both depend on drivers using their own smartphones to link their apps to the network.

Perhaps the main issue with LTE being embedded in your dashboard is the fact that most people buy a vehicle and plan on owning it for several years, and in most cases platform technology could become obsolete within a year or two as mobile technology is continually upgraded. Even as LTE will most likely have a long shelf life being a relatively new technology, its performance will continue to improve, which could mean that in order to get the latest upgrades, you may have to trade in your vehicle a lot sooner than you had planned.

Despite these issues, many governments are requiring that all future cars have some form of embedded connectivity, particularly for safety reasons. In fact, nearly all electric vehicles of the future will come standard with embedded M2M modules that will assist with power management. And it seems plausible that these trends will lead to 4G connectivity as well.

But Leo McCloskey, connected-car technology firm Airbiquity´s marketing vice president, said he believes automakers will tackle embedded connectivity in the car mainly for purposes of emergency services or basic car operations. “They´re going to keep in-car connectivity very low speed,” he added.

“There are many challenges to designing next generation telematics and infotainment solutions,” Verizon CMO Tami Erwin said of the new group, “including supporting safe and responsible driving, advancing vehicle-to-vehicle solutions and improving sustainability, among others.”

Safety will likely be a key measure with connectivity, as regulators are already concerned with the over-abundance of information drivers have at their fingertips. The NHTSA in February proposed stricter guidelines that would limit just how much in-dash displays and touch screens that would be available to drivers while they are on the move.

Despite the warning signs, Verizon still believes that connectivity in the car is the future. “We expect M2M and telematics to drive significant growth for Verizon and we´re taking an important step forward to accelerate solutions that will unlock more opportunities for existing and new (Hughes Telematics, Inc.) and Verizon customers,” John Stratton, president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions, said in a statement.

Verizon recently announced it was buying Hughes Telematics, Inc., which powers M2M applications in connected cars, for $612 million.

Telematics is an experiment in integrating information into vehicles to provide functionality to drivers and passengers, Verizon said. The Venture Forum will work to discover ways to increase the value of services like cloud-connected solutions and mobile applications, as well as increased safety options, it added.

“We all expect (this venture will “¦) spur results that will benefit not only the industry, but millions of consumers around the world,” Erwin said.