Carmakers are investing in telematics technology, allowing users to control cars through their smart devices including smartphones.
Often perceived as a gateway to driver-less driving, telematics technology allows drivers to "communicate" with their cars without manipulating the car itself, from sharing simple conversations to starting the engine, calling for emergency help and more.
Check and diagnose
Volvo Truck's "My Truck" service and Hyundai Motor's "Blue Link" self-examines the car's systems.
Once synced with the driver's smartphone, the car's central system sends information about the oil, battery, windshield wiper fluid and urea catalyzer levels to the smartphone application and notifies the users with when to charge the battery, liquid and other supplies.
"We believe this saves time, energy and money for our customers ― truck drivers who are extremely sensitive about the maintenance fees," a Volvo Truck spokeswoman said.
"Blue Link" by Hyundai, the world's fifth-largest automaker, advises the driver to meet with a dealer or repairman when an abnormality is detected. It even arranges the meeting with a push of a button, without the driver calling a service centre.
According to Hyundai, one of the most used functions in its telematics is remotely turning on the engine, which enables drivers to heat up the engine before the drive in winter.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, the company projected that the same manipulation would be made available with smart watch devices in the near future. BMW also teamed up with Samsung to show off a similar remote-control system using the Galaxy Gear S smart watch.
Perhaps the most popular flank of telematics is for entertainment, where smartphone screens can be synced with the car's infotainment screens.
GM Korea announced last week that its new-generation Chevrolet Spark would be installed with the Apple CarPlay infotainment programme from later this year. Maps, podcasts, voice calls, text messaging and other features will become available by syncing the driver's iPhone with the car.
The Mercedes-Benz COMAND service alerts the driver of natural disasters and other environmental issues and traffic accidents in real time.
Other notable players ― Hyundai and Kia alongside BMW's Connected Service and others ― provide similar services, allowing drivers and passengers to enjoy streaming music, video clips, games and other media by connecting to the Internet. GM and Mercedes as well as BMW have a reinforced voice-recognition system ― similar to Apple's Siri service ― that enhances safety. "It is eyes-free," GM Korea said in a press release.
Why not in Korea?
Some of the most trend-leading services have not yet been adopted in the Korean market.
BMW's Connected Service as well as Audi, Lexus, Infiniti and other powerhouses have rather "reduced" telematics functions in Korea. Some of the "groundbreaking" services such as GM's On Star or Audi's video-consultation service are not available here, either.
"It could be the size of the market leading to relatively smaller sales volume. Or it could just be the headquarters' decision," a publicist of a foreign carmaker said. "But more companies are working on improving the system here," he added.
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org)