Juniper Research: Nearly 100 million connected cars by 2016

Consumer smartphones, safety regulations, and efficiency savings are driving Internet connectivity in vehicles, and will become standard features in a few years.

Toyota Entune uses the driver's smartphone to integrate Internet-based applications with the infotainment platform.
Toyota Entune uses the driver's smartphone to integrate Internet-based applications with the infotainment platform.Photo by Toyota

The automobile is fast becoming the largest mobile electronics device, and in just a few years having a car that connects to the Internet will be the new standard.

Juniper Research studied the automotive telematics market in eight key global regions, and predicts more than 92 million vehicles with Internet connectivity will be on the road by 2016. Smartphones integrating with vehicle electronics platforms will fuel the growth.

Infotainment systems such as Ford's Sync AppLink, GM's IntelliLink, BMW's ConnectedDrive, and Toyota's Entune are key players driving this trend. In just a few years, these advanced technology systems could become as standard as AM/FM radios are in cars today.

However, commercial fleets--which make up a large portion of vehicles on the road--and insurance telematics platforms that provide emergency response systems are still considered to be in the infancy stages of adoption. Juniper forcasts that these industries will roll out new connected platforms starting in 2014 to manage driver efficiency and reduce costs. Regulatory initiatives such as the European Union's E-Call will also boost telematic adoption in vehicles.

"Integrating the smartphone into consumer cars represents a new route for the mobile Internet and infotainment to enter the vehicle," said report author Anthony Cox.

But not everyone is on board with this rapid progress. U.S. transportation regulators pursuing anti-distracted-driving lawscould put the the brakes on this growing industry. A ban on hands-free and handheld mobile devices on driving could reduce distracted-driving related auto accidents. However, with venture firms such as Intel Capital looking to invest millions in the connected car market, such a ban would throw a wet blanket on one of the fastest-growing mobile markets.