Despite the crisis, the internet remains an issue for carmakers

Despite the crisis, the internet remains an issue for carmakers

Despite the severe crisis in the auto industry, the industry does not want to let off the gas on one future topic – the Internet on board. At the world's largest computer trade fair, CeBIT (3. To 8. March) in Hanover, manufacturers will present their visions of the future.

Navigation devices listen to the word, car radios get music stations from the Internet and cars communicate with road signs. The industry has been accelerating the further development of IT in cars for years with high investments. So far, however, fast Internet on board as a mass product is still a pipe dream, not least because of the high additional costs.

Information technology is definitely becoming more and more important for the industry: "Between 80 and 90 percent of innovations in the automotive sector come from the IT sector," says Axel Garbers from the IT industry association BITKOM. In the industry crisis, there will be two groups among the companies: "One that gives up and lays its hands in its lap and a second that says 'we have to invest now in order to continue to have cars that are fit for the future'."BITKOM emphasizes that already today no car drives without IT – starting with the ABS anti-lock braking system and ending with the on-board computer, which communicates with its environment.

The carmaker Volkswagen continues to invest. "After all, it would be counterproductive to stop putting money into research and development because of the crisis," says VW spokesman Harthmuth Hoffmann. Every valley is always followed by a rise. This is precisely why the industry needs innovative solutions at an early stage. "We're preparing those now," says Hoffmann, referring to VW's "[email protected]" project, which brings the Internet into cars.

In Wolfsburg, an extensive WLAN network has been set up for test purposes, allowing drivers to call up extensive information about the city, events, free parking spaces or tourist highlights. In the next four to five years, the Internet in cars with stable reception could be ready for series production, says Hoffmann. Then, presumably, the data infrastructure will also be expanded throughout Germany. "That's why investment in research is already necessary today."

Continental, the automotive supplier, is not cutting back on its most important research projects either. "We continue it with the same energy. There is no slump," says spokeswoman Dagmar Weiner at the development site in Schwalbach (Hesse). Only "very future-oriented" projects will be postponed.

According to the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), the industry invested a total of 18.9 billion euros last year in the development of innovative, climate-friendly and efficient technologies. Despite the crisis, VDA President Matthias Wissmann encouraged companies to continue investing: "Because especially in times of crisis, one thing must not be cut: the blood supply to the head."

But there is still a lot to do on the subject of Internet in the car. While the auto industry is striving to meet customer demands for a connection to use mobile devices for entertainment and communication purposes in the vehicle, the latest VDA annual report states. The integration of cell phones, smartphones, navigation devices or audio players, however, is proving "extremely difficult" due to, for example, different software and dissimilar connections.

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