Automobiles and Telecommunications: The Road Ahead

Carl Weinschenk
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Fourteen Hot Gadgets for Your Mobile Lifestyle

High on the list of things that are being transformed by telecommunications is the automobile industry. In some cases, the change is as basic as it can get: Telecommunications and associated tools are taking over the actual driving. Telecom technology also is being used to send and receive more complete and comprehensive data to and from cars in support of both driving and vehicle maintenance. It is making the trips go by faster for passengers by providing unprecedented levels of connectivity and entertainment.

Last week, the MIT Technology Review reported on a project at the University of Michigan’s Mobility Transformation Center. The idea is that self-driving cars work fine on highways, but require a great deal more complexity and nuance when driving on city streets. For this reason, the school is building a mockup of some of the streets of Ann Arbor. The course features 13 intersections on four miles of road. The Michigan Department of Transportation and 13 companies involved in automated driving are sponsoring the project.

The Economist presented the big picture of where cars are going, so to speak. According to the article, telecommunications is completely redefining what we know as driving and riding. The first paragraph of the story paints the picture, which is at once interesting and a bit scary, quite well:

In a generation from now, your journey home may go a bit like this. As you leave your office, an empty car rolls up. Perhaps you summoned it, or maybe this is a regular pickup. On the way home you listen to your favourite music, watch a television show or catch up with the news. You barely notice as the car slows down or speeds up to avoid other vehicles, except for when it pulls aside to let an ambulance through. Some of the other cars have drivers using a steering wheel, but many of them, like yours, have no wheel at all.

Wired looks at the transformation of automobiles and the industry that supports them, and buried deep in the piece is a key phrase. The automobile used to be a box with four wheels that takes people from point A to point B. It is now “a transportation services platform.”


Telecommunications is used in cars in so many ways, from ensuring that fluids are full and belts un-frayed to avoiding accidents, providing directions, and entertaining occupants. The entire auto industry is being transformed. According to Wired, manufacturers must now adjust to the changes.

A good example of the technology that is being released on what seems like a daily basis is from Pioneer, which is offering a “rearview mirror telematics unit,” according to CIO. The unit gathers and displays information, such as navigation, traffic conditions and weather forecasts, from the cloud. The unit acts as a mirror when it is not displaying data and can play video from the rear view cameras. It can act as a Wi-Fi access point. Data can be accessed via voice commands or through a touchscreen LCD. It will be available in April.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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