How Cars are Connecting to the App Economy

One of the biggest challenges around the ramp-up of new in-car technologies is that early adopters tend to upgrade their devices more often than they buy new cars.

But what if in-car tech was flexible enough to integrate the latest in connectivity into older models?

Just as smartphones today can be updated with the latest software, so too could a car’s built-in infotainment system. By 2018, automakers will ship more than 35 million vehicles that contain infotainment systems that link directly to a smartphone, according to ABI Research. A platform called MirrorLink, backed by a Connected Car Consortium (CCC) composed of more than 80 percent of the world’s automakers, is looking to mirror the smartphone experience to an in-dash display.

MirrorLink can create great experiences for drivers and passengers, who bring along a smartphone or tablet equipped with the latest apps for real-time traffic updates, streaming music channels and even biometric trackers that read a driver’s fatigue or stress levels.

Carmakers “face the difficult challenges of not only how best to integrate smartphones into their vehicles, but also how to ensure that the integration strategy remains viable throughout the life of the vehicle and multiple generations of smartphones,”  Gareth Owen, principal analyst at ABI Research, said in a statement.

Unlike other in-home screen-sharing technologies such as Miracast, the MirrorLink standard also defines the back-channel controls and runs only CCC-approved apps. That makes it easy to view and control phone capabilities like GPS, cellular modems, music and video players, as well as sensors from the car’s own interfaces, and it adds the smart protocols that limit which apps can work when the car is in motion.

Imagine, for example, a smart parking app that not only helps drivers find the closest, cheapest open spot but also records the location and provides walking directions between the parking location and the address for the appointment in your smartphone calendar.

The utility of such apps is plain to see, but what’s game-changing is the idea that a car’s in-dash technology could stay up-to-date. Imagine a 4-year-old car that connects with last year’s smartphone to access an app that was released last week — that’s the power of MirrorLink.

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About the Author

Special Correspondent Fredric Paul is an award-winning writer, editor and content strategist who has spent his career covering the intersection of technology, business, and culture. His writing has appeared… More