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CNET On Cars: Car Tech 101: What exactly is a connected car?

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CNET On Cars: Car Tech 101: What exactly is a connected car?

2:52 /

Connected car is a term that gets bandied about a lot these days, Brian Cooley explains the flavors of it with an acronym we know you'll remember.

-Connecting to OnStar. -The first Connected Cars most of us encountered had OnStar, famous for crash notification, stolen vehicles slow down and unlocking your car when the keys are in it, made driving seem kinda scary. But today, Connected Car Tech OnStar included, does much happier things. To remember them, just spell CNET. C is for communication that used to mean just hands-free calling. -Hi, Mom. -But now, you can get text messages displayed or even read to you. -Where are you? We thought you would be here by now? -Send back a reply with a push of a button. -I'm running a little bit late, I better let them know. -There's Twitter in the dash, Facebook and Yelp reviews. Clearly, your car isn't the quiet refuge it once was. N is for navigation. GPS powered turn-by-turn maps, those are almost a given now but add in live internet search to find your destination. Satellite view of the map itself and when you find the destination on your computer, no need to jot it down, just send it to your Connected Car. E is for entertainment. Streaming audio from Pandora, MOG, Spotify, TuneIn and others, either replaced broadcast radio or just do it one better. Built-in to the dash or stream wirelessly from your phone and streaming video in the backseat seems a lot more promising than those dumb DVD systems. And T is for telematics. Remotely locate, start, block, charge your car, even set boundaries for where and how fast it should be driven by your kid, all from a phone app in many cases. Now, at this point, you're maybe thinking so many ways to die. Distraction is where one more piece of connected car tech will come into play. That's autonomy, self-driving cars that can communicate with each other, pavement sensors, smart traffic lights, and data centers to do all the tedious driving that is probably 90% of all your time behind the wheel. That's why cars get connected. How they do it comes in a couple of flavors. First, tethered, very common. This is where your smartphone and its 3G connection are the bridge between your car and the internet. Toyota's Entune system is just one example but there's also integrated, much less common but growing. Audi and BMW were the pioneers in actually building 3G connectivity into the car, no phone needed. And GM just announced it will build 4G in the most of its 2015 cars to provide a fast connection for the services in the dash, as well as create a WiFi hotspot in the car.

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