As the hype following General Motors’ announcement of the largest deployment of 4G LTE in the automotive industry to date settles, we’re here to provide some much-needed context.
1. It’s Not An Afterthought
For starters, it’s important to emphasize the nature of the 4G LTE system’s integration: it’s not afterthought or some kind of an aftermarket add-on, as is offered on certain GM vehicles today in 3G form. Instead, GM’s implementation will integrate the 4G LTE technology into the vehicle’s electrical system, complete with an external antenna for maximum coverage and connectivity. And since the 4G structure is built into the car, customers won’t need to use their smartphone’s connection as a modem to use connected services (we’re looking at you, Ford/SYNC Services).
2. AT&T Replaces Verizon
GM’s current line of North American vehicles utilize the CDMA wireless communications protocol. So in the United States, Verizon is OnStar’s cellular carrier of choice, as is Bell Mobility in Canada, China Telecom in China, and Telefonica in Mexico. As such, General Motors seems to be completely replacing its partnership with Verizon with that of AT&T, even though Verizon is switching to LTE technology for its 4G rollout as well.
3. A Myriad Of New Possibilities: Safety, Navigation & More
Since vehicles offerred with wireless connectivity today — whether it be 3G or 4G — aren’t truly integrated into the automobile, they don’t really provide the full benefits of an integrated wireless service. But given that GM is fully integrating 4G into the car, the vehicle becomes a (albeit one that weighs several thousand pounds) wireless device in and of itself — thereby creating a vast array of possibilities. For instance, imagine the car communicating with other vehicles (V2V), or with the infrastructure (V2I), or providing real time services such as traffic, navigation, or point-of-interest information.
Speaking of navigation, 4G is fast enough, and promises to be pervasive enough, to do away with SD- and DVD-based navigation systems entirely.
GM believes that wide-spread applications of in-vehicle 4G LTE connectivity “will enable vehicles to interact directly with their environment to enhance safety, efficiency and convenience for drivers and passengers. 4G LTE will make services such as real-time traffic and navigation updates possible, pulling information from the cloud.”
And as long as we’re talking about what’s possible, what about a dash cam that provides a live stream or a replay of what’s happening with the car? This could work for vehicles that are both stationary (parked) or in motion (driving), and could be made available to owners, parents of concerned teenaged drivers, and even insurance companies investigating an accident.
4. Apps, Apps, Apps
In addition to giving cars the ability to communicate with other vehicles or with the vehicular infrastructure, the widespread integration of 4G LTE in GM vehicles will provide users the ability to access the recently-announced third-party application catalog. And according to GM, AT&T won’t be just a connectivity provider, but a “partner in developing and delivering new apps and services to customers.”
Without the car’s direct connection to the internet, a user would likely have to download an app through his or her computer, transfer it to a USB/thumb drive, and then run on down to his or her car to install the app using an in-car USB port. But with an in-vehicle internet connection, users would be able to bypass all of that by browsing and installing apps via the cloud-based app catalog — all without leaving the car. How cool and convenient is that?
Since the 4G LTE connection delivered to the vehicle will undoubtedly be able to create an in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot, users will have access to any web-based service they’d like. So whether it’s streaming video via Netflix or Hulu on a summer road trip for the kids in the back, streaming Pandora, Stitcher, or Spotify for the rest of the vehicle’s occupants, or browsing the web on a tablet, the infotainment possibilities are nearly endless.
We can’t possibly hope to list all the possibilities enabled by a direct 4G cellular connection in the vehicle, but the potential for innovation exists in many areas. To take some inspiration from Steve Girsky’s announcement this morning, these 3,000-pound mobile devices deliver both miles per gallon and megabits per second, and GM hopes to surprise and delight drivers and passengers, streamline urban commuting, use resources more efficiently, and save lives.
GM will begin introducing 4G LTE connectivity on its vehicles starting with the 2015 model year (in 2014). How are you planning to use the 4G LTE connection come 2014? Talk to us in the comments.