Concepting the Connected Car


Are you interested in a connected car? If so, you’re not alone. Interest in vehicles with connectivity technologies is increasing, and automakers are quickly ramping up efforts to integrate more components of these systems. It’s no longer the trim or the leather interior that carmakers are touting as the top enhancements to make a vehicle special—it’s the voice-activated calling, or the connected maps application.

The trend will only increase as time moves forward. According to ABI Research,, the penetration of safety and security telematics features in new vehicles will rise from 10.2% in 2012 to 49% in 2017. Analysts cite factors contributing to the increase such as government mandates for telematics in Europe and Brazil, as well as customer interest in features related to safety and security.

ABI also says many automakers are focusing on embedded connectivity systems for safety and security, but Ford,, continues to buck the trend with its SYNC system, which uses the driver’s smartphone to connect.

Automakers are turning heavily to connected features when developing concept vehicles. Toyota Motor Corp.,, will exhibit a concept model at this week’s CEATEC JAPAN 2012 show in Chiba City, Japan, held October 2-6. Called the Smart INSECT (information network social electric city transporter) the vehicle is designed as a communications-linked vehicle that uses a number of connected features to support the driver’s lifestyle.

The vehicle’s body design is that of an ultra-compact, single passenger electric car. Inside, it’s packed with technologies like motion sensors, voice recognition, and cloud-linked services. For instance, the Smart INSECT uses front-mounted motion sensors with facial-recognition to detect the driver and authenticate that he or she is registered with the vehicle.

The vehicle communicates remotely with the Toyota Smart Center. A virtual “agent” at the center uses technology to recognize the driver’s voice, and can predict what the car may need, such as setting the destination and operating various functions of the vehicle, such as fog lamps and audio.

The concept model is also designed to communicate with the driver’s home through the Toyota Smart Center. The driver could remotely check the home’s locks and air conditioner while in the vehicle.

While the Smart INSECT is still a concept car, it shows the direction automakers are heading. They are integrating connected technology ever more tightly into the driving experience, while also focusing on how to make that technology safe for the driver. In the coming months, Connected World magazine will highlight the connected car with its second annual Connected Car of the Year awards, which will be announced in the February/March edition of the magazine.

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