The chip industry has talked about the computerization of cars forever, and it looks like this is going to (finally) happen within the next few years. The mobile revolution has mass-produced the technology required for it, and the various app ecosystem have made the car industry realize that non-critical software does not require “years” of tests before deployment in a vehicle. Qualcomm had previously announced a Qualcomm 602A chip that is dedicated to automobiles, and today, the Gobi 9×30 modem will bring the latest LTE performance and capabilities to the car industry.
Gobi 9×30 is a 4G LTE modem that connects to the RF360 front-end to allow for a very large compatibility with LTE networks worldwide. The idea is to minimize the number of design changes required to launch in markets where LTE bands are completely different. There are more than 40 LTE bands/frequencies used in the world today, so this is no small feat.
Once the LTE connectivity is on, the Gobi chip can manage things like in-car WiFi hotspots, and Bluetooth communications with a number of accessories and devices. The LTE connection can reach a theoretical speed of 300Mbps (download) by aggregating two LTE bands. The system also has GPS capabilities like those found on smartphones and if you have an old in-dash GPS, this could be quite an upgrade, especially if the GPS antenna is large like it should be in a car.
Looking more into the future, features such as Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communications are present. The goal here is to have cars exchange information about their speed and positions in real time in order to avoid collisions or dangerous situations. The US department of transportation says that this information could in theory be used to warn the user, or let the car take autonomous action in order to avoid a crash. The total cost of implementation of a V2V system is estimated to be at $200 per car, but since the initiative is very recent, it’s safe to say that it will take years before we see a commercial implementation. Car makers are cautiously interested and warn that there are many security and privacy issues that need to be worked out.
The final question remains how wireless carriers will handle the products and billing. In my opinion, this has always been the part that has slowed down the adoption of wireless technologies outside of smartphones. Carriers like to bill “per SIM card” and adding more devices to a plan is often cost-prohibitive. It would be best if we could pay for the data that we use, but wireless carriers are extremely wary (for good reason) that they will become a “dumb pipe” with fast-eroding margins.
In the meantime, what would you do if you had LTE in your car? What kind of apps would you like to see, and do you think that the current in-car user interfaces are good enough? Drop a comment below.
Transparency: Our trip from San Francisco to Barcelona is partially arranged by Qualcomm, along with other media. Many news outlet don’t disclose this, but we do. More about our travel policy.