What is a Connected Car?

May 2, 2022
Being connected is part of our everyday lives and is now a well-integrated part of the automotive industry. Connected cars have been around for a number of years and offer a range of exciting use cases and benefits that we will explore. But what is a Connected Car? And what does it mean for the auto industry?

Definition of a ‘Connected Car’

A vehicle that is connected to the internet is the basis of a connected car. It connects via mobile data networks and can transmit data to other devices within or outside of the car. This includes remotely accessible services on smartphones and other devices. As users request information on their vehicle, the car has to always be connected to the internet for transmission of this data.

How do Connected Cars Work?

The technology inside a connected car is made up of one of two systems, Embedded and Tethered:

  • Embedded - Assembled with a chipset and antenna which are built into the vehicle.
  • Tethered - Vehicles that have the capability to connect to a user's phone.

Connected vehicles are able to download updates, send data that is accessible remotely and tether themselves to other devices locally via a built-in WiFi within the car. The capability extends to accessing telematics data and remote vehicle functions, which are becoming espeically popular with EVs.

How do they Communicate?

Vehicle data is being transmitted across the world, interacting with people, devices and the local infrastructure in a number of ways:

  • Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) - live safety scenarios are taken into account by the driving characteristics of nearby vehicles. Speed, direction, steering and braking are all shared between vehicles which are nearby. Road dangers such as reckless drivers and ambulances can be tracked using V2V.
  • Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P) - With sophisticated sensor technology, pedestrians are alerted to the driver who can act accordingly to avoid accidents.
  • Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) - Connecting to local authorities that can alert drivers about traffic, weather and alerts that may affect their driving ability. Advanced systems send traffic light data, nearby building sites, bridge heights, and pedestrian crossing data to all help aid vehicle and driver safety that would not otherwise be captured in outdated mapping data.
  • Vehicle to Cloud (V2C) - Enabling so much data to be utilised. Including diagnostic reporting, location data, or connecting to a device that is part of the IoT space.
  • Vehicle to Everything (V2X) - Part of all the above. All the connections to and from the vehicle, with a combination of improving the safety of drivers, the road and its traffic.

What Does ‘Connected Car’ Mean for the Automotive Industry?

Connected Cars

Entertainment and Control Features

Today, users can harness their connectivity to link their phones to the infotainment features of a car. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are prime examples that can use the in-built display to play music, provide navigation instructions, text and call using a familiar setup as you would on your phone. 

Alexa from Amazon is another example. With a connection to your home devices such as heating and lighting, devices in vehicles allow these to be controllable from your driver's seat. This works in reverse too, at home you can control your car on-board systems such as locking, heating and camera access. All controllable with your voice, you can search for a destination from the comfort of your sofa, and the directions are transferred to your vehicle when you step inside.

Help Improve Road Safety

With V2V, cars can become connected as a group, without being physically attached. Meaning an improvement in fuel economy and the ability to drive faster as each vehicle knows the other vehicle’s status.

Examples include red lights that can even be avoided if the technology is advanced to preempt them. This eliminates fuel waste, saves on traffic and can prevent collisions. Parking space data can be displayed to drivers who can be directed to a free space without driving around and wasting time too.

The Concerns

Vehicle Theft

With a study in Belgium proving hackers can steal a Tesla Model X in a matter of minutes, this technology has some drivers concerned. Connected car technology allows over-the-air updates, meaning Tesla was able to prevent this from happening with a simple software update, instantaneously, without the driver being aware.

Phone Hacking

A driver may have a pre-installed app on their smartphone which can collect their vehicle’s information, including location, and send it to scammers and thieves that can remotely control their vehicle. 

Extra measures have already been put in places, such as two-factor authentication and fingerprint unlocking being needed before a user can control their vehicle using their phone. Critical functions are not possible to control via a user's device.

What’s Next in This Space?

Carmakers, government law departments and associated suppliers are collaborating to understand the true capability of connected cars. With heavy investment from the big tech leaders such as Microsoft, car manufacturers such as GM, and chip suppliers including Qualcomm means this space will undoubtedly grow in the coming years.

Smartphone technology has been filtering down to the automotive industry for a while now. With chip suppliers focussing on bespoke automotive applications. They can harness data, analytics, communication with charging infrastructure and aid with parking. New businesses are being born out of this data collection and vehicle-to-everything idea.

Connected cars are a big step in the autonomous world, with real-time sensing and data collecting, vehicles can communicate with each other in a busy area. This can lead to fewer crashes, avoiding pedestrians and other dangers and free-flow traffic that could undoubtedly change the world.


With cars becoming more advanced and the need to travel increasingly in popularity, connected car technology cost is a small price to pay for the benefits it provides. Safety, efficiency and entertainment all come from wireless data communication. With a host of big organisations stepping up their game in a collaborative space, connected cars are here to help the world. 

We are seeing the beginning of this new wave with apps that drivers can use to control their cars and EVs communicating with chargers to allow payments to process automatically - just two real-world use cases that can harness Connected Car technology.

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