But here's the thing: people often assume that a cloud-connected car is simply about pushing more social media, more music, more video, more games, and, in short, more entertainment into the vehicle. Nested within that assumption is another assumption: that cloud-connected cars will lead to more driver distraction.
I'm not convinced. First, automakers aren't about to create cars that let you post Facebook updates or upload YouTube videos while driving. And even if they were tempted to do so, their teams of lawyers would advise otherwise. And if their lawyers failed, teams of government regulators (and lawyers) would step in. In short, mobile broadband technology will deliver more "infotainment" into the automobile, but drivers won't have unfettered access to this content while rocketing down the turnpike at 80 mph.
Second, cloud connectivity can actually help reduce distraction. For instance,
today's voice recognition system are relatively primitive, using grammars and speech models limited by the car's onboard processing and storage. But once you add a wideband wireless connection, the car’s infotainment unit can use a sophisticated server-based voice recognition system that lets the driver use natural language. In fact, a remote server can provide a variety of helpful features — such as realtime traffic reports integrated into navigation services — that are difficult or impossible to implement using only on-board resources.
"People forget that, when you have an Internet connection, data can travel in both directions..."
Third, people forget that, when you have an Internet connection, data can travel in both directions. Case in point: "AJ", the 2011 Ford Fiesta that can automatically post tweets on its own Twitter account. If you read the New York Times article on AJ, you may feel that a Twittering car is a solution in search of a problem. And you'd be right. But AJ is just the beginning — or, more correctly, a platform for exploring what happens when cars become mobile Internet terminals.
Imagine, if you will, a critical mass of vehicles acting as floating traffic probes, anonymously uploading real-time information about traffic and road conditions, such as whether a stretch of road is icy. And then imagine nearby vehicles accessing this aggregated data and warning their drivers to slow down accordingly.
Personally, I'd be happy if my car distracted me long enough to say, "Paul, buddy, ease up on the accelerator, or you'll wipe out." What about you?