RAC Cars News


What a connected car can do for you

By raccars Published

connected car

Connected car is the current industry buzzword, but what does it really mean for you?

A number of new cars, particularly in the premium and luxury sectors, are boasting impressive sounding, high tech new features based around the concept of the 'connected car'. Essentially this means that your car will be able to communicate wirelessly and sometimes with other vehicles, but do you really need these features and how will you use them?

Kitting out your connected car

Telematics systems

Telematics is essentially a system of sending and receiving data. GM was the first car maker to make use of telematics in the mid Nineties with its OnStar system, but similar technologies are now widely available, usually using your mobile phone as an interface. You can use a telematics system to lock and unlock your car doors, open and close the windows and even start the engine remotely. Some systems even provide vehicle diagnostics and maintenance services.

Bluetooth connectivity

Drivers have been using Bluetooth technology to make hands free calls from their car for years, but modern Bluetooth systems are increasingly sophisticated. You can now access your call and contacts lists via Bluetooth.

Audio streaming

Often utilising Bluetooth, streaming systems play music or other audio from your mobile phone or other device through your car's speakers, wirelessly. You can also usually access music from a device using your car's USB port - most of them have at least one these days.

Text messaging

In order to combat the danger of using a mobile phone while driving, some Bluetooth systems now incorporate a text message function. This can read an incoming text aloud so that you don't have to look at your phone's screen. You can also choose from one of various preset replies which indicate that you will reply later to the sender. The most advanced systems even allow you to reply by voice to text, all without taking your eyes off the road.

Satellite navigation

Most sat nav devices these days function via GPS (global positioning satellite) technology, which identifies the driver's location and uses real time data to advise on journeys. Look for a sat nav system offering real time traffic information so that you can re-route as necessary. Some of these require a subscription. Other useful features include points of interest, which can include fuel stations, restaurants, shopping centres and other useful destinations.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

These systems allow you to control your mobile phone from your vehicle's touchscreen or other command interface such as steering wheel buttons or a voice command unit. In contrast, Bluetooth streaming, for example, still requires you to operate your music playback and other media from the phone itself, which is distracting while driving.

Entertaining passengers

Rear seat entertainment screens and other devices have been saving parents' sanity on long journeys for years, but the newest systems are more intuitive and less obtrusive than ever. In addition to playing DVDs, you can usually connect video games and listen through headphones so that parents aren't forced to endure 'Let it go' for the millionth time...


There are many useful automotive apps available for smartphones and watches, such as those which allow the use of parental controls - limits on audio volume, speed advisories, preventing the deactivation of active safety systems and a driving report system, for example. Apps for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle use can advise your battery status, range limits and charging times.

Wireless charging

While most cars now include at least one USB port which you can use to charge your mobile phone and other devices, a sophisticated wireless charging system is smarter and less obtrusive..

Looking to Buy?
Search for cars