December 28, 2011, 6:18 AM — The "4G" term is everywhere now, but although smartphone manufacturers and wireless carriers are using the new technology, we've heard little about it from the automotive industry. The potential is intriguing, however, because in the past decade, car companies have made huge progress in integrating high-speed connected communications and entertainment systems with automobiles.
For an industry that not long ago pushed car phones and trunk-mounted CD changers as the pinnacle of in-vehicle technology, practical services such as GM's pioneering OnStar and high-tech infotainment options like the Mercedes-Benz COMAND system have been significant advances, adding tremendous value and unrivaled convenience for today's drivers.
Most of those services have run on 2G and 3G connections. But 4G is coming to the automobile, and some of the chatter coming from automakers suggests that the 4G-connected car will perform a whole new set of tricks.
In the past year or so, broadband concept cars such as the NG Connect Toyota Prius and the Verizon OnStar 4G Buick LaCrosse have given enthusiasts a glimpse into the near future of automotive connectivity. Utilizing the Verizon 4G LTE network, the LaCrosse's wild features included a custom in-dash display portal that offered online access stored in remote servers, a driver-facing camera in the rearview mirror for video Skype chats, a home-control system, and Internet-based, voice-controlled entertainment.
With such tantalizing inventions at hand, we interviewed several car-company experts, asking them to discuss the broadband technology of tomorrow, and what it will mean for drivers.
Ford's Sync Service
Ford's Venkatesh Prasad has big ideas. "Ford won't speak officially about a 4G production time," he says, "but we're closely evaluating it, and seriously considering the best ways to implement it."