GM's in-car communications systems is just the beginning of the connected car ecosystem. OnStar

OnStar, the in-car communications system from General Motors whose honey-voiced navigation instructions, ability to sense emergencies and capacity to magically unlock car doors has soothed countless motorists, is just the beginning of the connected car ecosystem. The increased integration of smartphones into the car dashboard infotainment system, plus higher smartphone penetration will result in app-capability that will reach 90 million vehicles — 20 percent of consumer cars in North America and Eastern Europe — by 2017, new research shows.

NEWS: Your Car Is the Next Smartphone Accessory

New in-car capabilities reach the market on an almost daily basis through apps and industry research into areas such as V2x, in which vehicles communicate with one another and road infrastructure en route in real time. Such capabilities are beginning to paint a picture of the role that so-called telematics applications will play in the future automotive market, according to a new report from Juniper Research.

Telematics in general is benefiting from the improvements of the smartphone ecosystem in recent years, particularly the increased processing power and functionality of the device and the development of the app ecosystem, Juniper said.

Incorporating the smartphone into the vehicle has become, and will continue to be, a major driver for automotive infotainment and in-vehicle Internet access, said Juniper. It also opens the door to new business models for content providers and app developers, including the possibility of creating advertising models for in-car content.

The integration of telematics systems into consumer vehicles began at the OEM level (Original Equipment Manufacturer), but is now rapidly expanding into the automotive aftermarket. As the telematics universe becomes more complex, Juniper believes that a basic level of smartphone integration providing Internet and app connectivity will be offered with the majority of new vehicles through smartphone tethering (i.e., using your smartphone carrier's signal to connect).

"Sky-high smartphone ownership and a standardized approach to integrating apps into the vehicle head-unit mean that the barriers to making the connected car a reality have all but gone," said Anthony Cox, the report's author. Cox noted that the only factor holding back even faster deployment of in-vehicle Internet will be slow growth in the new vehicle market itself in developed economies.

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