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Alcatel-Lucent puts big data pipes in Prius

CNET Car Tech covers Alcatel-Lucent's LTE connected car.

LTE connected Toyota Prius
The LTE connected car uses Alcatel-Lucent's wireless data connection for a variety of applications. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

LAS VEGAS--The connected car is a big theme at CES, but most companies rely on a user's mobile phone for an in-car data connection. However, this is not so with Alcatel-Lucent, which demonstrated a heavily modified Toyota Prius with its own LTE data connection. This broadband connection enables many in-care functions, including vehicle-to-vehicle communication, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and various Internet applications including our old friend Pandora.

LTE, or Long Term Evolution, is a term for a 4G wireless network being implemented by Alcatel-Lucent for Verizon. Although data speeds vary greatly depending on conditions, according to Alcatel-Lucent, LTE's speeds average 5 times faster than 3G, at almost 15Mbps. In ideal testing conditions, speeds hit 56Mmbps into the car and 25Mbps upstream.

Pandora screen
Pandora is just one of the applications in the LTE connected car. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

To demonstrate LTE's data throughput, Alcatel-Lucent worked with Toyota to modify a Prius, fitting it with every broadband function the company could think of. The car sports big LCDs in the center stack and in place of the glove box, along with headrest monitors for the rear seat. The concept operating system shown on these monitors, developed by QNX, offers a wide variety of connected applications, including car-monitoring programs receiving data from the car's OBD-II connector.

The LTE connected car broadcasts some of its sensor data to other cars on the road, alerting them to road conditions, speed, and braking. Cars connected in this fashion could alert each other to bad traffic, breakdowns, and accidents. If your car received a signal that the driver is hitting his brakes hard, it could alert you to the fact, giving you plenty of time to hit your own brakes and avoiding a rear-end collision.

LTE's fast data connection allows many Internet-based applications in the infotainment system. The demonstration car offered YouTube, Chumby, Kabillion, multiplayer games, Atlantic Records Fanbase, and Pandora. The Pandora Internet radio application has been used by several companies to demonstrate connected car capabilities, so we were not surprised to find it in the LTE connected car.

Although the car is just a concept, Alcatel-Lucent is building out Verizon's LTE/4G network rapidly, covering 25 markets by the end of 2010 and having nationwide coverage within 3 years.