AT&T accelerates move into connected-cars market

US telecoms giant AT&T is ramping up its connected-car activities with the launch of a new automotive platform called Drive and the opening of a new connected-car center in Atlanta.

The operator has also announced tie-ups with a number of carmakers at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, including Tesla (Palo Alto, CA, USA), Audi (Ingolstadt, Germany) and Chevrolet (Detroit, MI, USA).

The Drive platform is designed to help developers and carmakers introduce new connected vehicle services, and involves a number of leading technology companies, including Ericsson (Stockholm, Sweden), VoiceBox (Bellevue, WA, USA), Synchronoss (Bridgewater, NJ, USA), Accenture (Dublin, Ireland), Amdocs (Chesterfield, MO, USA) and Jasper Wireless (Mountain View, CA, USA).

Meanwhile, the new ‘Drive Studio’ in Atlanta will be dedicated to connected-car innovation and research.

The center will be located “just blocks away” from the operator’s Atlanta Foundry – dedicated to new wireless services, including the connected home, car and other consumer electronics – allowing AT&T (Dallas, TX, USA) to test and develop technologies for use in vehicles.

“We’re going to work here with automakers to build innovative new solutions to make the in-car experience better for the driver and passengers, all doing so safely, with a focus on minimizing driver distraction,” said Chris Penrose, senior vice president of emerging devices for AT&T Mobility. “We’re also going to use this facility to extend our relationship with the developer community and drive new applications and services focused specifically on the car and their end users.”

AT&T also announced that had signed a deal with Audi and General Motors’ Chevrolet division to provide high-speed 4G connectivity for a number of models.

Drivers who are current AT&T customers will be able to pay for in-vehicle usage through Mobile Share plans, and all drivers can choose to pay for connectivity services on a standalone basis.

The operator is also to provide high-speed wireless connectivity for electric vehicles manufactured by Tesla.

Tesla said the AT&T technology would power remote engine diagnostics, telematics and infotainment features such as internet radio, web browsing, live traffic, weather and navigation.

AT&T faces strong competition in the emerging connected-cars market from other US operators, including chief rival Verizon Wireless (New York City, NY, USA), which bought Hughes Telematics in 2012 to give it a bigger presence in this market.

According to a report from Bloomberg, Chetan Sharma, an independent wireless analyst based in Issaquah, Washington, believes that 5% of operators’ data revenues will come from connected car services in five years’ time, up from less than 1% today.