A planned community best known for golf-cart commuting could become the testing ground for connected cars. Panasonic Automotive and AT&T have teamed up to turn Peachtree City, Georgia, into a "model connected community" that they and other companies will use to develop and test new car communication products.
The announcement made earlier this month is an effort to formalize the relationship between the two companies. To develop the connected model community, Atlanta-based AT&T will provide the 4G mobile broadband infrastructure, and Panasonic Automotive, which is headquartered in the suburb, will supply the hardware and integration services. The partnership will also structure an open framework for working with other companies, such as auto or mobile device manufacturers that also want to develop car communications products. Together the companies will work with the community that will test the systems to determine safety, impact, and demand.
The companies' proximity to Peachtree makes the suburb an obvious proving ground, but the community's golf carts are also an appealing factor. It sounds counterintuitive, but golf carts offer advantages for testing new infotainment systems, said a Panasonic Automotive spokesman.
Whether it's a low- or high-speed vehicle, the goal of the device manufacturer is the same: to develop an intuitive user interface for its mobile products that meets consumers needs and is safe to use. Teens are a large consumer of social networking and communications products, but they're not able to drive vehicles until age 16. However, in Peachtree City teens as young as 12 can get behind the wheel of the low-speed vehicles when accompanied by a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian, and 15-year-olds with learner permits can drive the carts solo. By giving teens access to a method of mobile transportation in a relatively safe environment, manufacturers can test their systems on younger drivers.
For example, Panasonic and AT&T could work with parents to test geofencing products that alert family members when their teen driver in a connected car--or connected golf cart--leaves a particular area.
Research on test projects will begin later this year after AT&T rolls out its 4G infrastructure in the area.