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Coming soon from Google, Apple or Samsung -- a car?

June 4, 2014 02:01 PM ET

Executives in charge of the infotainment/telematics divisions at GM, KIA and Ford recognized their companies are behind the curve and need to discover better ways of addressing mobile connectivity needs.

It's not just offering more mobile apps for drivers, they agreed; it's about getting the critical apps such as entertainment, navigation and news updates right -- and making them effective and simple to use.

Phil Abram, chief infotainment officer for GM, said the fact that GM plans to have 4G wireless connectivity on 40 models in the coming year proves "this is mainline to General Motors."

Abram said mobile connectivity should be buried in the car, and not something called out in shiny new apps. It should just be a part of the car's working ecosystem.

"If our customers are talking about technology, we're screwed up," Abram said. "When was the last time you went electric motor shopping for your kitchen? Nobody does that, however, you own... electric motors. I don't think people care at all about the connected car. It's like talking about transmission fluid. You don't. You just expect it to be there," Abram said.

What people care about is whether a car can make them safer and make their life easier.

Koslowski said the top three applications consumers want, based on studies, is current traffic information, real-time map updates, weather and news updates, parking information and Internet radio.

They are also interested in having their car connect to the Internet of Things, meaning a vehicle's telematics system will be aware of wireless devices in a driver's home and office.

For some, that means being able to have automatic alerts sent from their home or office to their car. And about 14% of drivers surveyed by Gartner said they'd also like to be able to make purchases of services from their cars.

When it comes to sharing data generated by in-car computers, Kowlowski warned automakers to beware of getting "creepy" and being too invasive. Data, he said, should be used to offer services, not violate privacy.

That said, Koslowski added, there may come a time when drivers will be required to hand over vehicle data to the government, remembering that "driving is a privilege and not a right.

"That right may be redefined in the future," he said.

covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at Twitter @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed Mearian RSS. His e-mail address is

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