by Tom Kaneshige

Connected Cars Race Toward Mobility and the Cloud

Jul 12, 20133 mins
Car TechCloud ComputingConsumer Electronics

Forget fuel efficiency, all-wheel drive and sunroofs. Your next car may connect wirelessly to an array of cloud services, talk to your iPhone, call 911 if you have a medical emergency and even place your coffee order. It's not as futuristic as you may think.

In the 2001 movie Training Day, police officer Jake Hoyt is sitting in detective Alonzo Harris’ tricked-out, black Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

“So where’s the office? Back at division?” Hoyt asks.


“You’re in the office, baby,” Harris says.

More than a decade later, those words are taking on a new kind of reality, at least in the tech sense. Cars are coming to market resembling roving cubicles wirelessly connected to an array of cloud services and remote devices, such as an iPhone. Some cars boast Wi-Fi, secure messaging and voice-enabled systems.

In the run-up to mobility, an Internet-enabled car is about as mobile as you can get. Wearable tech woven into clothes, glasses and watches is a hot mobility topic, and Nuance’s Chief Creative Officer Gary Clayton, speaking at MobileBeat in San Francisco earlier this week, puts a nice spin on wearable tech and cars: “Basically, the car wears me.”

Executives at IBM, Sprint and Ford Motor were also at MobileBeat to talk up the “connected car.”

Connected Cars Keep You Informed, Safe and On Course

Connected cars can receive data feeds for weather, sports and news; send engine diagnostics to the car manufacturer; and link to emergency and navigational services.

Car owners will be able to start the engine remotely with an iPhone, turn on the air conditioner on a hot day and arrive to cooled-off car—no more suffering on hot leather seats. You can also send directions from your iPhone to the car’s navigational system.

Vijay Sankaran, chief technology director at Ford, says this is only the beginning of the connected car. He envisions people driving up to gas stations, even drive-up windows at Starbucks windows. The vendor’s system recognizes the car system and thus understands the owner’s coffee preferences, automatically processes an order, and then provides an epayment option.

[ Slideshow: Apple Innovation: 10 Future Tech Ideas ]

For business people, a car might one day alert the driver to a shift in trading stocks and allow her to make trades over a voice-recognition interface while still driving.

Perhaps a futuristic driver is wearing sensors—that is, wearable tech—that talk to the connected car. The sensors alert the car if the driver is having a medical emergency, and the car automatically and safely pulls over to the side of the road and calls 911.

“We want to move from an automotive company to a transportation company,” Sankaran told

To Boldly Go Where No Car Has Gone Before

If all of this sounds less like Training Day and more like Star Trek, you’re probably right. Check out this viral video advertisement from car maker Audi starring the two Spocks, Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto:

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at