Connected Cars are the New Mobile Frontier

by Matt Klassen on November 16, 2015

With the smartphone market having reached a high level of saturation and the tablet market having clearly hit a plateau, the connected car market has emerged as the new growth avenue for the mobile technology. In fact, as a sign of the changing mobile landscape, in Q3 AT&T posted its strongest new subscriber growth in automobiles; connecting over 1 million cars across the country for the second consecutive quarter.

While AT&T has well over 100 million customers across the country who use wireless, video, broadband, and, of course, landlines, connected cars outpaced all other categories in new additions, perhaps not surprising given that it’s still a fledgling niche technology.

But that said, it’s clear that connected car technology will be one of the new mobile frontiers going forward, as carriers battle for in-vehicle supremacy, automakers battle for how to power the cars, and tech giants battle to control it all.

Although AT&T clearly stands as the current gold standard of car connectivity—as Ma Bell accounts for roughly half of all connected cars in the US, having signed deals with nine major automakers—the fact that cars outpaced phones and tablets likely means that it will only continue to become standard vehicle technology.

“Connectivity will start to become ubiquitous, almost expected,” said Karl Brauer, senior editor for Kelley Blue Book. “Right now, it’s a whiz-bang tech thing, but eventually it’ll be as common as a big-screen TV.”

But as carriers battle to control in-vehicle technology, Asia’s two automotive powerhouses, Japan and China, are battling for how this burgeoning connected car industry should be powered. I mean, futuristic car technology needs a futuristic power source, doesn’t it?

To that end, harkening back to many titanic tech battles of old, there are two clear sides emerging in this fight: battery or hydrogen fuel-cells.

“We’re reaching a crossroads,” says James Chao, Shanghai-based Asia-Pacific managing director for industry consultant IHS Automotive. “It’s difficult to exaggerate the significance of the choice between batteries and hydrogen.

“Billions of dollars will be invested in one or the other and may determine which companies will lead the industry through the end of this century.

For its part China is pushing for improvements on the current electric car technology, while Japanese automakers are investing heavily in hydrogen-based technologies, lead at the forefront by Toyota, who has itself recently announced that it is investing $1 billion in automotive AI and other connected car technologies.

But in all this let’s not forget that tech giants Google and Apple have thrown their respective hats in the ring as well, both working on autonomous connected car projects of their own.

All that to say, despite the fact that it’s easy to dismiss the early growth of a new market like connected cars as a statistical blip, with wireless carriers, tech giants, and automotive titans all viewing connected cars as the new frontier of technological development there’s a good chance we’ll only continue to see strong growth in this market, as cars quickly become the next mobile platform.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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