When you think about a “connected car,” you probably think of fancy car stereos that can play songs from your smartphone. But the connected car is evolving into something much more complex. In the next couple of years, automakers like Ford(s f), GM(s gm), BMW and Honda(s hmc) will be pushing way beyond the dashboard to connect our cars in all kinds of new ways. Our cars won’t just be connected to our phones and the internet, but to other cars and even the highway itself.
And automakers aren’t the only ones vying for a piece of the connected car of the future. Carriers see the car as the next big device on their networks, while device makers like Apple(s aapl) and technology developers like Nuance Communications(s nuan) want to ditch the whole concept of a dashboard screen and replace it with a system of voice-activated commands. When that happens, we’ll be able not only to dictate emails while driving– we’ll be able to program our home TVs from the car, too.
But building a connected car presents some unusual challenges. For one, if carmakers don’t pick the right technology, they can be handcuffed for years. The planning for a new car starts years before it hits the showrooms, and carmakers then have to continue to support those technologies for as long as their customers are driving those vehicles. If they make a bad technology bet, carmakers can be living with the consequences for a long time.
Another challenge: Open development platforms have allowed companies like Google and Apple to thrive, but carmakers can’t fully take advantage of that movement: For safety reasons, they can’t just give developers access to, say, the engine — they need to have some restrictions.
Hover over the yellow buttons to see how we at GigaOM see the connected car evolving in the coming years:
Image map by Rani Molla