What's driving the future of the connected car?


Wireless carrier executives are all revved up by the connected car opportunity. AT&T (NYSE:T) CEO Randall Stephenson has been particularly vocal about the possibilities: "The way we think about the car is that it's just a big smartphone on wheels," Stephenson said earlier this year at Mobile World Congress. "The connected car will become just as routine as people carrying a smartphone."

Research firm Analysys Mason forecasts that automakers will ship around 11.5 million connected cars this year, increasing to around 170 million in 2023. Most of the shipments will be in the developed world but emerging markets will grow quickly as well. "We are on the precipice of almost all new cars coming off the shop floor with a SIM card pre-installed and mobile network operators will be keen to find multiple customer segments for the connectivity and other services they can provide," Analysys Mason analyst Morgan Mullooly said. "Because these deals were struck between the [carriers and the] auto manufacturers in the past few of years, the operators [have] been thinking about how to charge for and how to market services."

That's where confusion sets in. The connected car, despite all the hype, is still a somewhat nebulous concept. Wireless carriers have talked up the benefits of bringing cellular connectivity into the car as if it were self-evident that consumers would not only find connected car services useful but would be willing to pay for them. But there still has not been a great deal of explanation of what a consumer can actually do in a connected car environment. FierceWireless canvassed a wide range of players in the connected car market to find the most popular current uses cases and applications for the connected car as well as the advances coming in the next few years. Special Report