The connected car: A ton of promise but huge early challenges

The Los Angeles Times proclaimed this week that the hottest new gadget is your car at CES this week, and it’s hard to argue considering the avalanche of announcements from high-profile players. Among other developments, AT&T said it will provide service to the Audi/Google initiative as well as launching its own effort to supply in-dash technology, GM said its first LTE-equipped models will hit the market this summer, and BMW unveiled a partnership with Samsung to provide connectivity for its i3 electric car.

I think the hype surrounding the connected car is justified, unlike some other sub-segments in the internet of things. But the early days of the market for 4G cars will face much tougher challenges than most other connected-device market. As my colleague Kevin Fitchard noted a few months ago, the first wave (at least) of autos will be connected via a single carrier, which will make those cars a tough sell to users whose phones and tablets are serviced by another provider — particularly if the apps on their mobile gadgets can’t integrate with the car’s system. And it’s not difficult to imagine those cars eating up an enormous amount of data by running multiple apps and streamed content at the same time, which will be very pricey.

I can easily the day when we pick our car’s mobile service provider just as we do the color and other options, then tack on a reasonable amount to our existing monthly data plans. But it looks like we’re a long way from that day.