European Union regulations stipulate that by April 2018 all new production vehicles must be equipped with an Emergency Call function — a connected feature that automatically alerts the authorities if a traffic incident has occurred.  While in the US, the Department of Transportation has issued a proposed rule that requires V2V (vehicle to vehicle) connectivity for all new cars to be phased in over the next four years once the rule is final.  With this mandatory boost in on-the-road connectivity, vehicle manufacturers will be able to offer a more extensive range of online features to all vehicles in their product line-up, where previously they have been reserved for top of the line models.

To remain competitive in this developing marketplace and meet consumer expectations for connectivity everywhere, seamless interaction between the connected cars and all other IoT devices will become an industry standard. Greater consumer demand for connected safety and entertainment solutions will of course drive further innovation from OEMs and third-party suppliers (including new types of applications for navigation, transportation, news and social media, amongst others). Here are the most exciting among them:

In-charge content updates for electric vehicles – Available soon for production EVs, users will be able to download content updates at electric charge points, via the charging cable that can simultaneously act as an ultrafast data transfer line. This will mean driving away from the station with new music and news feeds, without having to wait to download the latest content.

Automated fuel payment – No longer will drivers have to queue at the petrol station to pay for fuel when in a rush. Jaguar and Shell have joined forces to offer a ”cashless payment app”  on a selection of the premium marque’s new models, which allows the user to make a quick and easy transaction via the connected in-car touchscreen.

Wearable connected devices – To fully capitalise on many connected solutions on the market today, the user must play their part in interacting with the technology. This is no different for in-vehicle connectivity, and by using a smartwatch, like the Apple Watch with BMW i Remote connectivity, users can benefit from vehicle lock/unlock, start-up and automatic personalisation features, upon proximity to the vehicle.

In-car IoT assistants – Virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa are already offered in some new production vehicles. These systems allow the driver to use voice commands to interact with their car’s infotainment features as well as with smart home solutions such as in-house heating and smart lightbulbs. Not only do these features enhance the leisure experience of driving, they also improve user safety as eyes are kept on the road while altering user settings.

V2X communication – Underpinning the future delivery of semi- and fully-autonomous driving assistance systems is vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication. While self-driving cars may be a ways off from prowling city streets en masse, similar applications of the tech are available in a handful of production vehicles. Tesla’s Model S, for example, can diagnose itself if mechanical issues occur, and automatically receive OTA updates to remedy certain problems. Tesla’s greatest demonstration of its remote updating abilities has been its software upgrades to empower its fleet with Autopilot, allowing users to take their hands off the wheel and watch the car steer itself.

While these connected car features are very impressive and suggest an almost unrecognisable driving experience 20 years from now, they all demand a significantly higher network bandwidth than what is currently available on UK roadways. A recent study conducted by us found that time spent on 4G over LTE networks on UK motorways ranged from 30 per cent to 84 per cent. If, by 2020, the majority of vehicles are expected to utilise these connected services and many more like them, there is no doubt that networks will have to evolve drastically and quickly to be able to support critical systems.

Ultimately, the rapid growth of the connected car and IoT market is far outpacing network providers’ abilities to offer comprehensive Internet coverage, and this must change sooner rather than later. In-car entertainment is important for OEMs and consumers alike, but when on-the-road safety is at stake, robust standardisation and benchmarking for widespread 4G coverage is paramount. GWS offers rigorous testing for global networking standards, and will continue to support network providers in upping their game, to ensure safety and entertainment is never compromised.