The companies driving connected cars

Wearables, sensors and AR will be part of your future car
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Like it or not, connected cars are becoming a bonafide thing. From syncing up with your wearable to unlock car doors, turning steering wheels into tracking devices and even using AR to test out whether you want to buy a car, wearables are slowly but surely making their way behind the wheel.

Having a smartened up car provides the advantages of convenience and health monitoring along with lowering car insurance, but there's also the issue of privacy and the possibility of hackers gaining access to your car.

Read next: Why the car is the next home of the connected self

Despite these problems, car companies seem determined to focus on the positives by continuing to add innovative technologies to their vehicles, and to ways you interact with them. Below are several notable names that have tried out wearable tech and augmented reality - or will be including it in some form or another to turn regular cars into smart, connected cars.


The companies driving connected cars

The Dearborn, Michigan based company is also looking into fitness bands and smartglasses in addition to smartwatches, in the context of car showrooms. Its also testing out voice commands for its MyFord Mobile smartwatch app, announced back in September.

Read more: How Ford wants to unlock wearable health inside the car

Ford's Automative Wearables Experience Lab is also working on semi-autonomous cars for the near future that could send vibrations or LED alerts to a smartwatch when there's an accident or roadworks ahead and the driver needs to take more control.


The companies driving connected cars

Toyota for the most part has avoided connecting its cars but that should change soon. The joint venture with Microsoft is called Toyota Connected and will be collecting and analyzing data from the cars.

According to the Microsoft blog, "Microsoft's Azure will be the cloud computing platform, providing a hybrid solution for everything Toyota Connected creates as it works to make driving more personal, more intuitive and safer."

It also sounds like instead of using apps connected to a smartwatch like Ford's plans, Toyota and Microsoft want to seamlessly integrate health tracking directly into the car. One example provided is using the steering wheel to access the driver's heartbeat and respiration or turning the seat into a scale.


The companies driving connected cars

After its biometric tracking of Wimbledon last year Jaguar's recently shown off a wristband key for its latest F-PACE SUV.

Coming in the form of a waterproof wristband, the key lets you touch the wearable to the Jaguar logo on the trunk of the car. So if you've locked your normal keys inside, an RFID sensor in the band will take over the locking system making the keys inside inoperative. It should also be useful in case someone's decided to steal your car.


The companies driving connected cars

Early last year Hyundai introduced a Blue Link app for smartwatches allowing you to remotely lock and unlock doors, start and stop the engine, flash lights or honk any Blue Link-enabled car's horn. It also let you find your car in a parking lot and call roadside assistance through the smartwatch's mic.

Then in the fall, an AR manual was announced for its newer Sonata line. Rather than refer to a paper book for care car tips, an app on your phone could be used by positioning the device's camera over parts of the car to get more info. While there are six 3D overlays that will pop up on your scanning, it won't show you AR how-to's for everything. However, there are 82 instructional videos included in the manual which are triggered by the scans if an overlay isn't available.


The companies driving connected cars

Volvo teamed up with Microsoft to announce that Microsoft Band 2 wearers will be able to instruct their car to lock the doors, flash lights, turn on the heater and set directions via voice controls. Volvo previously released an app with the same features but without the voice controls.

Essential read: Microsoft HoloLens apps and games to look for

The car company will also start using HoloLens in showrooms to allowing potential customers to explore cars using augmented reality before they buy.


The companies driving connected cars

Last year, Audi collaborated with LG on a limited edition Watch Urbane LTE powered by a proprietary watchOS. Nothing came of it but earlier this year, Audi announced that its Audi Fit Driver project is coming to Germany first. The project uses smartwatches or fitness bands to track the overall wellbeing of the driver, including heart rate and skin temperature readings.

In order to make sure the driver "arrives at their destination more relaxed than when they stepped into their cars," the Audi will bring in driving style, weather and traffic data and modify how it operates to keep the driver relaxed and safe.


The companies driving connected cars

Mini worked with Qualcomm, Vuforia and ODG to create augmented reality glasses to that attempted to blend fashion with function. The device is still in development and may not officially leave prototype limbo, but there have been demos showing off its potential.

In addition to providing directional arrows to assist with navigation, the glasses can also be a heads up display. There's also an 'X-Ray Vision' feature that syncs up to the car's external cameras, allowing you to see through the car from the glasses to check on obstructions or maneuver into a parking spot.

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Lily is a writer and editor specializing in tech, video games, marketing, education, travel writing, and creative fiction. 

She has over 10 years of experience covering the technology beat.

Lily has a passion for VR and AR technologies and was associate wearables editor at TechRadar US, before joining Wareable as US editor in 2016.

Lily will graduate in 2023 with an MFA in Creative Writing.

In her spare time, Lily can be found knee-deep in zine collaborations, novel writing, playing Dungeons & Dragons or hiking and foraging for mushrooms.

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