AT&T: 'Expect 10 million connected cars by 2017'

AT&T's mobility head at CTIA

Ten million cars will feature embedded cellular technology by 2017, said Ralph de la Vega, President and CEO of AT&T Mobile and Business Solutions, during a panel on connected cars at CTIA 2014 in Las Vegas.

De la Vega said 72% of consumers have told AT&T they are willing to delay their car purchases one year to wait until automotive cellular technology becomes available.

The connected car will be an integral part of the Internet of Things, but it will also make driving more fun and much safer, de la Vega said.

AT&T's new focus

De la Vega spoke briefly about his recent promotion, as well as the promotion of Glenn Lurie to President and CEO of AT&T Mobility. Both executives will be charged with bringing AT&T to the forefront among carriers and device manufacturers in terms of connected cars.

"Smartphones are the remote control for your life," Lurie said. "We're going to help people mobilize their life."

General Motors

Mary Chan, President of Global Connected Consumers at General Motors (GM), said developing connected cars has been difficult for GM, but the company was able to launch 4G LTE in partnership with AT&T across all four GM brands, including 33 different models in July.

"We believe in embedded technology," she said. "It's not just about turning this into a connected hotspot...It's about safety and innovative opportunities."

GM is giving consumers free trials of 3GB for connected cars along with a 6-month trial of OnStar. The company's goal is to enable connectivity for up to seven devices in one car.

During the initial two-months of the trial, GM has learned that the majority of data being consumed in cars is by children on the weekend, Chan said.

Ericsson

Arun Bhiksheshvaran, CMO of Ericsson, which also partnered with AT&T to provide wireless connectivity in cars and conducted research on the matter, said 50% of drivers said they are willing to switch automotive brands in order to drive a connected car.

Bhiksheshvaran said it was crucial to Ericsson to ensure connectivity was valuable to consumers, and not just a fad that they wouldn't be willing to invest in.

Ericsson worked with Volvo to launch the XC90, an SUV powered with connectivity that is designed to improve safety and navigation.

Voice-driven applications

Mike Kennewick, Co-founder and CEO of VoiceBox, said his company is working to develop the technology to enable drivers to research and plan things such as navigation via voice-driven technology.

Kennewick said he would like drivers to be able to ask cars to find restaurants and book reservations hands-free.

"We [VoiceBox] believe voice is the one component that transcends all devices," he said. "If I set a reminder on my watch, I should be able to receive that reminder in my car...That's the reality of what we're going to see in the next few years."

People want to be productive while driving," Kennewick added. "It's imperative that as we introduce the internet to cars, we have to help people interact safely."