Car data needs standards, too

Ford and Toyota announced Monday morning that the car companies are working together on standards for the next-generation of networking and Internet-connected services in their vehicles. In a press conference, executives at Ford and Toyota said that the standards they are working on would cover areas like connectivity for WiFi and bluetooth in the car, and back-end infrastructure that provides the data for the in-vehicle services.

The move shows just how important connectivity is becoming for car companies, as vehicles are becoming the latest devices to have an always-on wireless connection (see our video below of an interview with Ford’s chief technology officer Paul Mascarenas below). As the market for these connected services matures, the car companies realize the importance of collaborating on standards to help grow the ecosystem for the connected car.

Standards will be crucial to enable car companies to work with third party developers, device makers, cell phone companies and Internet companies to create applications that are actually compelling to drivers. Drivers will want to move their data, digital entertainment and Internet services from their homes and cell phones to their cars, and this will rely on a standardized format.

By 2016 consumers will expect all cars to be connected, according to Thilo Koslowski, Gartner’s Automotive Practice Leader, and this trend is being pushed by digital convergence, sustainability, changing demographics, and increased mobility. Koslowski said on a panel recently that connected cars will represent “a new era for the auto industry” and car companies that don’t move aggressively on it will have a competitive disadvantage.

Beyond digital entertainment and Internet services, Ford is separately working on a technology that will enable cars to wirelessly talk to each other, helping to reduce crashes as well as potentially fuel consumption. The tech is based on a souped up form of Wi-Fi and GPS, and we got a demo of that tech back in June (see video below).