Digital revolution: smartphone on wheels


40 or 50 years ago, the few electrically operated components in a car were limited to a handful of functions. In the year 2018, the picture is very different: electrics and electronics have become a significant component of modern automobiles.


The introduction of the CAN bus in the early 90s is considered the opening bell for new technical infrastructures entering the car. In place of the traditional "wiring harness" where control units are directly interlinked via individual cables, bus systems entered the picture. The CAN bus has become the powerful standard communication system. Experts estimate that electronic components already have an innovation share of 80% in the premium segment.

The significance of digital bus systems will further increase over the coming years. Because the need for equally solid and flexible multimedia and telematics data transmissions will also increase in the near future. The digital revolution in the car is in full gear: state-of-the-art cars are already fully networked; digital displays replace the traditional speedometer -- and smartphones are increasingly handling tasks in the modern car.


The smartphone as a type of modern Swiss pocket knife can no longer be dispensed with for our everyday life. No wonder that drivers want to use the beloved functions also in their cars. True to the motto: "Always on(line)!". Solutions such as "MirrorLink", Apple's "CarPlay" or Google's "Android Auto" provide a seamless integration of one's own smartphone into the car while enabling to always stay online. All of these versions have in common the transmission of selected smartphone functions to the large board monitor. This allows using functions and apps in the car via the infotainment system. The cumbersome -- and dangerous -- control of the smartphone is no longer necessary.


But the smartphone can accomplish even more:

Not everyone is happy with this development. Safety experts look at consumer requests for a most versatile smartphone critically. After all, smartphones are already a favorite target for hacking attacks: smartphones are for example partially open platforms and, due to their inconsistent update levels, relatively unsafe. One possibility for increasing safety consists in decoupling safety-relevant functions from the comfort-oriented entertainment functions in the electronics setup.

The smartphone is presumably merely a transition to much more profound changes. The connected car will be able to communicate quite soon with other cars (car-to-car) or the traffic infrastructure (car-to-x).

What sounds like the distant future now is not so distant after all: it is already possibly today to retrieve vehicle condition information online via a smartphone app for example. In addition to pulling up diagnostics data, individual car functions can be remote-controlled. A smartphone can on the one hand already replace the car key and, as an evolution of the so-called "keyless go", open the car from a distance. The smartphone can also remote-control air-conditioning and horn. And if you should ever forget where you have parked, you simply take out your smartphone and have its location displayed via Google maps...