When AT&T is not focusing on eliminating T-Mobile or capping your data, they are working to position themselves in emerging markets with high growth potential. In this case, they are transitioning their communication services into the third fastest-growing mobile device, your car. Audi is already experimenting with its implementation in their 2012 A7 and Glenn Lurie, President of AT&T's Emerging Devices division is working with Ford, Nissan and BMW to see their technology roll out with these car manufacturers in three to four years.
Vlad Sejnoha, the CTO of Nuance, a company who has developed speech recognition software for many auto manufacturers, gives his take on how the technology will be implemented.
Apps will reside on a built-in computer…a local computer, powerful, with a lot of memory, and it will include communication capability so it can connect to a server at any point. That server might include some data, some natural language processing, and the user will just simply be aware they are talking to the system. It can select media from the entertainment system, switch radio channels, you can ask for the nearest gas station. It will allow drivers to respond to their SMS texts that can be read outloud using synthetic voice. And a lot of these guys will also make it possible to connect to your smartphone for an app or music. But they won’t rely on the phone for the wireless connection.
The real question is, why would you pay extra for something your smartphone can already do with it's own 3G/4G connection that you are already paying for? Audi gives their take on that after the break.
In an e-mail, Audi cited three reasons they think offering WiFi in their future cars is necessary.
1) It is a vital first step in a vehicle-to-vehicle communications.
2) It helps eliminate driver distraction when dealing with incoming information.
3) It permits "total flexibility to update features in the car."
Last year at CES 2011 we saw first hand some of what wireless vehicle-to-vehicle communications can do with the GM EN-V and that is an exciting prospect. Eliminating driver distraction seems to center around heavy voice automation for activities the driver normally performs by touch interactions with physical controls but you wouldn't necessarily want to pay an extra $30+ per month to utilize that. It would offer a convenient method for vehicles that are increasingly dependant on software to receive rolling updates, probably for the first time ever and a there is room for a huge application market specifically for vehicles in there. Based on Audi's and AT&T's assumptions, there is a compelling argument that WiFi in your next ride could enrich your driving experience. The question is, how much would it be worth paying for and what compelling features would you want to see?