The technical challenges to integrate a smartphone into an auto are daunting.
It can take three years or longer to develop a vehicle, and that vehicle, once it gets into the hands of consumers, is likely to still be on the road a decade later. A car's ability to communicate with electronic devices can become outdated as smartphone manufacturers swiftly incorporate features into their devices.
"The consumer side of hardware and software is changing so rapidly that what is new technology today in consumer electronics is out of date in 18 months," says Mike Ray, automotive technical director at supplier Dassault Systemes. "We're trying to integrate that same technology into a vehicle that's taken me three to five years to get to market, so I'm always out of date."
Ray said it's common for automotive designers and engineers to design an in-vehicle entertainment system around a computer chip that, when it comes time to actually produce the vehicle, is so obsolete that it's no longer being made.
Modern smartphones are computing powerhouses -- in many ways miniature versions of desktop computer systems from just a few years ago. But they still rely on a cellular network connection and the Internet to be fully functional.
And those connections can be unreliable -- for instance, when you're driving in a remote rural area with no cell service.
And Bluetooth, the standard wireless connection between a smartphone or iPad and the car, is not bulletproof.
Suppliers and automakers are exploring potential alternatives to Bluetooth. Among the technologies being studied are Near Field Communications -- similar to the radio barcodes used by retailers to thwart shoplifters -- and WiFi, the most common method by which laptops connect to the Internet.
The connection "has to be something that's stable long enough for cars to ship with it and for phones not to have bypassed it all," says Andy Gryc, the automotive product marketing manager with supplier QNX Software Systems. QNX helps car companies integrate smartphones and other handheld electronic devices into their products.