Everyone is well aware of what their smartphones can do. Their smartphone can browse Facebook, get the closest Thai restaurant or listen to streaming music from virtually anywhere. That same convenience can be available in a car. In the past having a navigation system meant costly updates to have the most accurate data on an in-car GPS, after paying the money for the original system. Smartphones and their constant connection give the user the most up-to-date information in an instant. Automakers are now integrating that technology into their dashboards.
This is not a new concept. Ford was one of the first companies to create a mass-market in-vehicle content using a Bluetooth connection. Their system offered hands-free calling and navigation services. They have since expanded that model to allow for certain apps to be run from the dashboard.
The in-dash display, known as “the fourth screen” is now available with web-content. This ranges from navigation, streaming radio or in some models, and social media sites like Twitter or Facebook. The social media apps are special versions optimized for use in-vehicle. As recently as two years ago, this was only available in high end models like Mercedes Benz or select Fords. Now, vehicles delivering web-based content are becoming the industry standard in GM, Ford, Subaru, Acura and other car manufacturers.
Many of those companies are offering web-based content through a connected smartphone, taking advantage of the already downloaded apps without using any extra data. The most common use of web-content is for navigation, but using an app for streaming music is a close second. Websites like Pandora, Slacker Radio and Stitcher Radio are the leaders in streaming music, but services like Rhapsody that offer on-demand music are catching up. Surfing the web from a vehicle is viable, although it will likely be through an app instead of a browser. It would require each of the big automobile manufacturers to develop their own browser and get the problems fixed through constant software updates. Developing an in-vehicle app using an existing mobile browser, like the ones available from Google or Firefox, would make the process easier. Offering this in-car would most likely require a separate data plan, like the one T-Mobile is offering Audi customers.
There is always the safety aspect to consider when companies deliver content that requires the user to pay more attention to what is happening on their dash instead of the road. The music and navigation apps currently available can be used even if the vehicle is in motion, but apps like Facebook would require the car to be in park before it will launch. In addition to considering the safety of the users, there would also be the issue of how to store the information sent over the internet. Websites need to store data on a user’s machine to function smoothly, and users will want the convenience of storing usernames and passwords. Car manufacturers will have to increase the size of the on-board hard drives that are already installed with the existing in-dash systems.
Sebastian is a blogger with a passion for everything tech-related. All things considered, within a few years nearly every vehicle model will offer an in-dash web browser, whether it’s a standard feature or an optional one will be left to the manufacturer. The buyer will have to decide if they really need it.