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CNET On Cars: Car Tech 101: 4G in cars explained
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CNET On Cars: Car Tech 101: 4G in cars explained

5:07 /

Brian Cooley takes a broader look at why you are about to see 4G built in to Audi's, GM's, Hyundai's, and many other carmakers' vehicles.

[MUSIC] From the first question, and it's a fair one is, why 4G? What's the big deal? First of all, the phrase, 4G in the car, has a lot in it. Let's unpack the phrase cause it tells us much. First of all, 4G, that means greater bandwidth, more speed. 4G provides faster pipes. So all of a sudden, you have the ability to do things with less leg time for people that are in the car. The experience is just that much better. Yeah, it really is. This 4G was designed with IT in mind, whereas 3G was really designed to support voice services. 4G is really designed to support high speed based services, internet applications. [MUSIC] The next part of that phrase is, in the car. We're talking about an embedded connection that is part of the vehicle, as opposed to it being tethered off your phone. [MUSIC] You're not looking down, potentially on your smartphone, which you shouldn't be using, to find the address, and looking around trying to see a house number. You have the ability to do a search for a destination and actually be able to zoom in and see a full 360 degree panorama of your destination before you even start driving. You have the ability to get data in and out very quickly. IHS automotive currently forecasts a modest 1.2 million 4G cars on the road by the end of 2015, but spiking globally to 16 million just two years later. Now this 2015 Chevy Suburban I'm in right now is going to be among the first of what will be a majority of General Motor's cars starting with the 2015 model year that have or offer 4G connectivity. Audi may have gotten there first, but GM looks as though they're gonna get there biggest at least for the foreseeable future. Both Audi and General Motor's say that the hotspot created in these vehicles by 4G is dramatically better than one created by 3G as in the past. Look at this connection speed on my laptop on the network via the 4G hotspot in the Audi A3. And this is just one snapshot, of course, but during a day of usage I saw connection times that allowed me to focus on the content. And not the connections. Now speed aside, persistence of connection is a very interesting part of this story. Once you've got a constant connection in the vehicle, you start to change your habits a bit. You learn to rely on things like connected maps, streaming media, access to various types of apps. Things that right now are seen as a bit of an elective will start to become part and parcel of what driving is. [MUSIC] And tantalizingly, we may see manufacturers get in the habit of OTA, or over the air software updates, thanks to persistent 4G. That means you may wake up one morning, get a confirmation screen that says, we've updated the software in your vehicle. Enjoy your new services and your new interface. It's the same delight we get with our smart phones once or twice a year, but cars have never done that. Now you can keep things fresh, over the lifetime of the car, but also it's immediate freshness. You have the ability to bring material from the cloud in to the car. As we know recalls and having to do reprogramming of computer systems is a huge expense for the car companies. they'll be able to do this over the year, with out requiring. Consumers that take it to the shop, which is gonna be huge. They get a ton of diagnostic data from the car. Before you get to the shop, they'll know what's wrong with it and it helps the car and other stats. Of course, the question many of you are already thinking is, wait a minute. Who pays for this? I'm gonna have another. Mobile data plans. Well right now yes, it's typically $14 to $20 a month add on for the very few cars that have come out with 4G built in. In the near future, I expect you won't have to pay at all, except with your personal driving data. Which is rich and valuable. Your car is going to be collecting information and sending it back. Whether it is how you're performing in traffic, if there are potholes, maybe weather conditions. I think we'll see a model where we have a lot more crowd source data. Where each car, basically, is a node on that network that's communicating, and then data's aggregated in the cloud and brought back to that vehicle as well. Which brings us to security and privacy. Something where the stakes get even higher. When you're dealing with a big moving object, and one that reflects a lot of detail about our daily lives. There are all kinds of things that the industry could do including qunix to enable a very secure connection between the car and the cloud over a 4G network, but you need to follow those steps to be able to make that as tight as, as it needs to be. So far car makers are keeping 4G connections sandboxed within infotainment. Making sure that the systems are secure and that they're isolated from other parts of the car that potentially could pose a threat. Embedded 4G is not a matter of if, but when at this point. In the next two to three model years we'll reveal the many ways car makers intend to convince you it's worth paying for, one way or the other. [MUSIC]

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