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Connected cars head to MWC

autos Updated: Mar 04, 2015 11:03 IST


BMW is getting ready to take the wraps off a number of new models in Geneva this week, but at the same time, in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress it also has a very strong presence.

Truly self-driving cars are still decades away, but the age of the connected car has already arrived. According to BI Intelligence, 75% of new cars shipped globally by the end of the decade will come with an internet connection as standard.

Companies like BMW, Audi, Cadillac and Mercedes now offer cars with integrated 3G or 4G/LTE hotspot as standard and a growing number of others from Ford to VW have the feature on the options list.

With an internet connection, cars can talk to and warn each other as well as to road infrastructure such as traffic lights and congestion monitoring sensors.

Manufacturers will also be able to wirelessly push out software updates and collect diagnostics information -- as Tesla already does.

In January, the company sent out a software patch for Model S drivers that made their cars faster overnight.

Volvo is testing communicative capabilities with 50 cars in Gothenburg, collecting data via the cloud regarding driving conditions and the state of repair of the roads.

And while such technology will be standard on a host of vehicles before 2020, for the moment, the consumer focus is on web-based entertainment and communicating with other people, i.e., getting the same services in vehicles that they get via smartphones.

Business Insider's data shows that streaming music for in-car use is the most popular connected car feature (69%), followed by surfing the net via an in-car display (57%).

One innovation BMW is showcasing at this year's MWC is the "Vehicular Small Cell," which boosts the reception of all connected devices being used in the cabin. Dr Peter Fertl, Project Manager BMW Group, said: "It will allow our customers to enjoy uninterrupted in-car usage of all mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and other connected devices of the future -- even when driving through areas with poor cellular coverage."

A car's body has to be able to withstand and reroute a lightning strike and therefore is very good at insulating rather than conducting when it comes to signals. The Vehicular Small Cell turns the car's external areal into a smartphone and tablet signal booster, complete with its own wireless network without increasing electromagnetic radiation inside the cabin.

Meanwhile Seat on Monday officially announced a partnership with Samsung at the Mobile World Congress, which will enable the car company to develop its own suite of in-car infotainment apps and for owners to wirelessly link and mirror Samsung handsets to the consoles of future Seat cars.