The current in-car Internet radio landscape is dominated by dashboard systems that let users control services like Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn...provided there's a smartphone connected.
Lately, Verizon has reportedly pushed aggressively for a different future, one where cars connect directly to the web via 4G LTE. GigaOM reports Verizon Wireless' parent company recently purchased a machine-to-machine telematics company, while Verizon itself has formed a 4G Venture Forum for Connected Cars.
BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Kia have joined the forum, but absent are automakers from Detroit. GigaOM writes their absence "might be attributable to the fact that U.S. automakers’ visions for the connected car aren’t entirely aligned with Verizon’s."
That is, they would prefer the current bring-your-own-connection set-up.
"The logic is sound," comments GigaOM (here). "Consumer vehicles have long replacement cycles. Meanwhile consumers trade in their smartphones for more-sophisticated models every 18 months. Any radio, processor or platform technology an automaker embeds in a car could become obsolete within a few years."
But might requiring a separate device end up being a roadblock to in-car web radio adoption? Perhaps not. Nielsen recently found that more than half of mobile users in the U.S. now own a smartphone (RAIN coverage here). Meanwhile, Forrester Research has predicted U.S. consumers will own 257 million smartphones by 2016 (more here).
As Auto Magazine commented last year (here), "Millions of drivers already pay for powerful mobile devices and data plans, and most new cars, even those as inexpensive as the Kia Forte, are set up to connect with them via Bluetooth and USB inputs."
But it will be up to automakers to make the integration between their dashboards and the increasingly diverse world of smartphones as seamless and painless as possible.