If your car had a fast, always-on Web connection, how would you want to use it?I I wondered about this last night, as I sat in an "LTE Connected Car" promoted by Alcatel-Lucent and other members of the "ng Connect" program.
The car, a modified Toyota, had four screens, one for the driver and three for passengers. Each was running special software that would allow passengers to choose their own entertainment options.
As you would expect, there were driving directions (tied into a GPS) for the driver. And instead of picking your music only from CDs or a local station, you could also use Pandora or another Internet music source.
The LTE Connected Car could let passengers watch videos from YouTube and other Internet sources and buy video on demand. (Thankfully, video would be disabled for the driver when the car was in gear, and passengers in the backseat would hear their audio via Bluetooth headsets, so as not to distract the driver.) And of course, you could surf the Web, checking out the current weather and nearby points of interest, for example.
Representatives at the event said the car could handle four simultaneous HD video streams, and indeed, what I saw looked quite good. The streaming of both audio and video was provided via the LTE standard, a "4G" standard designed for wireless data streaming that nearly every wireless carrier (with the notable exception of Clearwire in this country) as endorsed. LTE hasn't been rolled out yet--Verizon is planning its rollout for the end of next year--so this demo was done with a base station just a few feet away; it wasn't really a test of LTE connectivity but more a demo of what could be done if you assume great connectivity.
The demo was prepared by the ng partners, including Alacatel-Lucent (which makes LTE hardware), QNX Software Systems (which created the basic software), Toyota Motor Sales, Atlantic Records, Chumby, and Kabillion. A real system is years off, though, because it would require a broad rollout of the LTE service, modified cars, and a business model that made sense.
For instance, you'd obviously need to pay for an LTE connection to your car, and it's unclear whether that would be the same service as for your handset. (In this demo, the car became a Wi-FI hot spot, so that may be a way around it, at least for when you are in the car.) Services like video on demand are typically pay services, so they'd probably have to be designed with different price points depending on whether you'd want to rent the movie or buy it; or want it for the car only, or also for your handset, or maybe your TV at home.
A lot depends on what car companies, wireless operators, and content providers choose to offer. But clearly, price and capability will be key. I'm willing to pay for a fast wireless connection to my handset (and my guess is most of the people reading are too), but the car service would provide a bigger screen and features designed for the automotive environment.
And there are services I would like: A bigger screen for Car GPS, real-time traffic, and reliable streaming music over good speakers and Car DVD player are certainly worth something.