The First (Truly) Web-Connected Car

Cadillac hops on the information superhighway

The Cadillac ATS Coupe
Subscriptions are yearly, monthly, or by the day, and range from $5 to $200, depending on how much data you want.Courtesy of Cadillac
Design Of The Month: The Lamborghini Huracán.
Lamborghinis are fast, beautiful, and high performance. But they’re not particularly comfortable. In the new V-10 Huracán, designers built in more headroom and easier ingress. The result is the first contemporary Lambo comfortable enough to drive every day.Courtesy of Lamborghini

The moment is universally disappointing. You hop into a new car, turn on the infotainment system, and suddenly you’re staring into the past. The antiquated functionality and ill-conceived interface seem drawn from a primeval cellphone, not a modern machine.

Cue the Cadillac ATS Coupe, the first car that will not suffer this particular malady. One of the reasons infotainment systems fail is that they’re old before they even hit the market; car development cycles last between three and five years. So the designers behind the ATS Coupe introduced 4G LTE into the cabin as a workaround. When an electronic system is due for a change, Cadillac will be able to push updates from the cloud to the car. That’s a lot simpler than heading to a dealer—or getting a new car.

Computing hardware is also outdated at launch. In response, Cadillac is decoupling the car’s computer from the greater development cycle. That means the company can drop updated control units into new cars as soon as they’re available. The ATS Coupe is one of three new GM vehicles launching this fall with 4G LTE. And it will serve as a model going forward. GM plans to introduce 4G LTE into 34 cars by the end of the year and into nearly every model across all of its brands by the end of 2015. The day when you don’t have to curse your car’s laggy touchscreen is finally within view.

Car News You Should Care About
1 Swedish telecom giant Ericsson is developing a phone app that links public and private transportation. As drivers pass through tolls, they accrue credits for public transportation, which they can use on bad traffic or weather days. 2 Automotive has the highest insider-crime rate of any industry, according to a study by PwC. Misuse of assets, procurement fraud, and bribery and corruption are the top three infractions.
3 By late summer, 27 children in the U.S. died of heatstroke after being trapped in hot cars. The number is down from 2012, when 34 children died, and lower still than the 16-year average of 38. But it’s still far too high. 4 Ford and Nokia are creating an app that defines areas in which cars should run in electric mode depending on terrain, traffic, and weather. Adapting to these green zones would optimize performance.

This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Popular Science, under the title “The First Truly Connected Car.”