EL SEGUNDO, CA - An estimated 55 million global consumers will have Internet access in their cars by 2016, up from 860,000 at the end of 2009, according to iSuppli Corp.
The United States is expected to be the leading region for car Internet access in 2009 and the following six years, with users rising to 28 million in 2016, up from 530,000 in 2009, iSuppli reported.
While in-vehicle Internet access should only be used while vehicles are stopped to avoid distractions, iSuppli says in the long-term, it could yield innovative new applications that enhance driver safety. One such application for automotive infotainment is the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), which allows cars to wirelessly communicate with each other and to traffic management systems to enhance safety and reduce congestion.
There are currently four potential communication links that could be used for automotive Internet access:
Mobile phones. Mobile handsets are expected to account for 69 percent of auto Internet links in 2016. Examples of cell-phone-based car Internet systems include Ford's Sync and Fiat's Blue&Me.
Embedded cellular links. An embedded cellular link is used for telematics solutions such as General Motors' OnStar, BMW Assist, and many other systems. The embedded telematics systems provide services focused on safety, convenience, and navigation.
Broadband cellular connections to Wi-Fi routers. The broadband cellular connection to a Wi-Fi router-i.e, Autonet Mobile-provides an Internet connection to any Wi-Fi device in the car. This is a promising emerging category with low current shipment rates. This system is the most Internet-centric of any of the four automotive Internet connection options. In essence this would merge the embedded cellular link/mobile phone approaches into a single system, which would have significant market potential.
Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) systems. V2V and V2I systems, also called V2X, are in the testing stage after many years of government-sponsored R&D projects in several countries. V2X systems are focused on safety applications to reduce intersection and highway accident rates. Since V2X mandates are expected around 2017, all autos sold after the mandate takes effect will have built-in communication links that can be used for Internet applications.
Better interfaces with minimal driver distraction for Internet-based content, some of which will be enabled by new infotainment systems and architectures, are expected to emerge in the next few years. In addition, iSuppli projects "an explosion of applications related to mobility" will find their way into cars.