In-Vehicle WiFi is coming

In vehicle WiFi is evolving into a new paradigm. Internet connectivity is provided in vehicles these day by either of the two ways.

  1. Most brands have some form of internet connectivity that is enabled through a SIM that has internet capability. Then the vehicle can act as a WiFi hotspot for other devices in the vehicle as well.
  2. Built-in WiFi Modem, which enables the user to connect their vehicle to any WiFi, or even their own phone data connection, via WiFi tethering.

The next step

The next step is to use satellite internet directly to a vehicle. In this way, you won't need a SIM card anymore to enable internet in a vehicle. The possibilities are larger, as you have a WiFi connection directly in the vehicle. If you compare the existing models to what we have in our smartphone, where we have some kind of internet connection via the mobile network. This new paradigm is analogous to connecting to your WiFi at home.

Why it makes sense?

Cars are becoming more and more software intensive. Maintaining all this software during the lifecycle of the vehicle becomes a lot easier both for the OEM and the customer if they could enable over-the-air features. A key one being updating SW on the go. The notion that the vehicle becomes more valuable over time is impossible without all the software enabled features.

Software is growing, by gigabytes each year. And so is the cost of doing updates. 24-7 internet connectivity is becoming a pre-requisite to realize this. Moreover, the need for connectivity is also growing for the OEM. Each vehicle generates tons of data each day which is relayed back to the OEM in all kinds of verticals, like vehicle health management, autonomous training, swarm features etc.

Overall, it is safe to say the customer experience is drastically better with internet connectivity always available both within the vehicle and for the devices within it.

Tesla's advantage

Tesla has an unfair advantage in this matter. Starlink, the satellite based internet service provider is run by SpaceX, another Elon Musk venture. The advantage is that they own both the end product (Tesla Vehicle) and the internet infrastructure. A key benefit is that they can offer integration and subscription services in a much more seamless manner.

This reminds me of AirDrop in the apple ecosystem. By owning all the end devices (in this case iPhones, MacBooks etc.), apple was able to create a very seamless experience of transferring files between devices. They could make a tailor-made solution that "just works". I wouldn't be surprised if Tesla introduces such a Starlink integration in the future.

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