Connected cars are a preview to something much bigger than the car

Connected carsAlex Wong/Getty ImagesShow attendees check out a prototype of a connected car console, built with Gorilla Glass at CES 2016 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 7, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The automotive establishment has taken a deep dive into the digital world.

We’re now hearing about carmaker giants like GM, Ford, and BMW laying large amounts of money on connected car technology.

The goal is to make vehicles smarter. And because technology has become all-consuming, it’s also to be sure that its easy to stay connected.

AT&T recently struck a deal to power 10 million Ford vehicles equipped with the automaker’s SYNC interface over the next five years.

Get ready for many more rolling Wi-Fi hotspots to hit the road. (General Motors has already introduced its own 4G LTE connectivity package through its OnStar feature.)

“The internet of things is really what’s driving this,” Matt DeWolf, director of mobile strategy at the business vehicle services company, Runzheimer told Business Insider.

DeWolf believes the connected car is more than just a segment in the automotive space. “The connected car is an appliance, and it will play a major role in this growing ecosystem of connected devices.”

Automakers and tech giants have already begun to introduce those concepts.

Connected car, self-driving car autonomousHarold Cunningham/Getty ImagesA Rinspeed Budii autonomous car concept is shown during the 85th International Motor Show on March 3, 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Where is all of this innovation taking us?

Now that the auto and tech industries have effectively reimagined the car as a tethered internet device, the logical next step is cars that talk to each other.

Such vehicles will eventually be driving themselves — because you need vehicles to communicate with each other and their surroundings in order to operate autonomously.

Automakers and tech companies have shown measured progress here, but there’s still a long way to go. And aside from the tech hurdles currently being ironed out, there’s still plenty of legislative details to sort through as well.

In any case, you can call the proliferation of connected cars a precursor to the self-driving revolution. Everything is at play. The internet-of-things, remote software updates and the tethering of home automation services in the car.

Major automakers have apparently realised that smartphone makers were beating them in the innovation game. While innovation in the mobile space burns hot and fast, the automakers, by comparison, were intent on developing their own technologies, partially out of fear of letting Silicon Valley in.

But that’s changing now.

AT&T, for example, now has relationships with 10 automakers, including Porsche, Audi, Tesla, Jaguar Land Rover, and Volvo — all of which will implement AT&T’s technology in their vehicles.

“As of last year, over fifty per cent of new vehicles rolling off assembly lines were equipped with AT&T connectivity,” Chris Penrose, who heads up connected cars at AT&T, said.

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