BARCELONA, Spain--General Motors cars rocking their own 4G LTE connection will hit the road next year.AT&T and GM's OnStar service unit struck a deal to bring millions of connected cars to the market, starting with the 2015 fleet, which comes out late 2014. GM said most Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac cars will get wireless connections. It's the latest win for AT&T, which has been particularly aggressive in going after the connected car business, a lucrative one in which the company believes it can eventually generate a billion dollars in revenue. Furthermore, the deal breaks a long-standing relationship between OnStar and Verizon Wireless, which has been the traditional provider of older wireless services. "The excitement is you're taking a car and turning it into a smartphone with four wheels," said Glenn Lurie, president of emerging devices for AT&T, in an interview with CNET. "There's an opportunity to do amazing things with the car."
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A superfast wireless connection adds a number of possible new services. The high-speed wireless connection can enable OnStar to better track the condition of a car, constantly checking to see if it needs any maintenance now or down the line. Drivers may get more-accurate traffic data and more Internet radio options. Passengers in the back will be able to access streaming movies or television shows.Or, the car could just offer up a 4G LTE hot spot for tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices. "Through this built-in 4G LTE connection we have the opportunity to reinvent the mobile experience inside a vehicle," said Mary Chan, president of General Motors' global connected consumer unit. GM has said it would release tools to developers looking to create apps to take advantage of the car's connection. "Developers will be able to take full advantage of 4G LTE speeds as they design vehicle-specific apps, and they can pursue development knowing that they'll have a broad base of potential customers as connectivity is built-in across GM brands and regions," Chan said. "We don't know what we don't know," Lurie said about the potential long-term capabilities of the car once developers get involved.
On the evolution of automotive platforms, Stephen Girsky, vice chairman of GM, said that the industry would likely start with many different approaches, and that it would evolve into fewer platforms as they mature. He also said during a keynote address at Mobile World Congress that that the development of apps are complicated by the need to protect the driver and car from outside control or hacking.
AT&T started talking to GM a few months ago about taking over for Verizon as the wireless provider.
GM said it plans to work with other carriers overseas to connect international brands such as Opel and Vauxhall.
AT&T isn't the only one that senses the potential in hooking up cars.
Updated at 7 am PT: to include a comment from GM.