In fact, according to iSuppli Corporation by 2016, 55 MILLION consumers will have Internet access in their cars. Yes, you read that right, 55 million.
Automobiles may very likely account for a rather sizable internet usage percentage within the next decade, and we predict that this technology will create the next "Internet Boom", just as smartphones and tablets have done in the recent past.
What's On the Market Right Now
North America is easily one of, if not the most, developed in the field of Vehicular Communication technologies and this accounts for the 1 million or so cars that were sold with internet connectivity in 2012. Autonet Mobile has paired with Cadillac and Chrysler and has been providing a integrated automobile WiFi solution since 2009.
The dealer-installed device comes at a relatively affordable(in the Cadillac realm anyways) $499 plus tax and a $30/month data charge. And the effects are tremendous. One kid can be surfing YouTube, another connecting with Facebook or Twitter, and another can be streaming internet radio, and you can focus on driving (while being kept up to date on the most current road conditions and traffic patterns!). Hence, the "Family" segment of the auto market accounts for most purchases of WiFi-enabled cars, as opposed to early speculations that the "Mobile Business Professional" segment would be the main driving force in sales of these devices.
Of course, it would be unfair not to mention General Motor's 'On-star' embedded cellular link and Ford's 'Sync'. The main difference between Ford's 'Sync' and the rest being that 'Sync' is powered by a 3G or 4G cellular device (a smartphone), which connects to the car, and the car then enables OTHER devices within the car, such as laptops, to connect to the internet. However, with the current state of sky-high 3G/4G data charges, this remains a fairly iffy option.
In other parts of the world, mainly Germany, the vision of connected cars have been under development for some time now. BMW's 'Assist' allows some limited internet access via the notorious iDrive interface, yet this is still under development and only available for select models in Germany.
Of course, BMW's German long-time rival Mercedes Benz is never too far behind when it comes to techno-gizmos. Mercedes was still testing it's 'myCommand' internet-based infotainment option back in 2008 when it unveiled the concept during the LA Motor show. Only fairly recently has this technology started to trickle into actual production vehicles.
What's Under Development
Well, a lot is under development really. Even the forerunners in this field are still testing and improving this new branch of Cellular technology. Some governments, private companies (ie. Siemens, Kapsch, Honda, Toyota), and educational institutions (such as UCLA, MIT, Texas A&M, Berkley, Stanford) around the world have also taken the extra measure of sponsoring long and expensive R&D projects in the fields of Vehicular Internet connectivity technologies.
V2V is the concept of Vehicle to Vehicle connectivity. It enables cars to effectively "talk" to each other, creating a large network mesh. Development in this field could yield an all-out revolution in the way traffic is directed, road hazards are avoided, and the internet is accessed.
V2I short for Vehicle to Infrastructure is a R&D campaign mostly funded by government institutions, which aims to reduce intersection and highway automobile collisions. It will eventually become an extensive communication tool. As iSupli Corp puts it,
"In the long-term, after 2020, V2X will become an important communication network along major highways that can provide Internet access for autos traveling on these roads. Since V2X mandates are expected around 2017, all autos sold after the mandate takes effect will have built-in communication links that can be used for Internet applications."-iSupli Corp.
Many great things are happening with the way people interact with the internet. For the average consumer, this may translate to a safer, more convenient driving experience. For the Business owner this might translate to an immense marketing and advertising tool. For Government institutions this might mean a revolutionary change in how traffic is directed, road emergencies are handled, and accidents are avoided.
One should remember that with any new technology comes all the glitches and problems associated, but all in all, the Internet is definitely heading in a good direction.