Audi. Tesla. Porsche. Mercedes-Benz. Land Rover. Each has taken the future of transportation to task, and with the introduction of the Apple Watch, we’re beginning to see the specific details of what they have in store.

One of the most consistent aspects of the automotive industry is consistent improvement. With each new model and iteration, minor and major tweaks to design, efficiency, power, performance and entertainment have pushed marques through the decades and into the 21st century. But one of the most rapidly competitive aspects to emerge, as well as one of the most subtle, comes in the form of on-board technology.


The Tesla Model S P85D, compatible with the Tesla app for the Apple Watch

Though some of the features available in cars today sound like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, particularly autonomous driving, many of them have been around in rudimentary forms for well over 20 years. When Mercedes-Benz unveiled their F015 Luxury in Motion Research Vehicle at the Consumer Electronic Show Jan. 6, they described the beginning of their self-driving vehicle program in the late 1980s. Dubbed “Prometheus,” it was capable of traveling for 620 miles on the Autobahn without assistance by the early ’90s.


The 918 Spyder, one of Porsche’s vehicles that is compatible with their new Apple Watch app

When Land Rover began celebrating the 21st birthday of the Range Rover Autobiography April 2, they reminisced about how it first incorporated television, a fax machine, a telephone line and satellite navigation into the line in 1997. It was truly during the 1990s that the original connected car market began its first steps of growth, when a car needed to be able to do more than just travel from A to B while playing some tunes and keeping your temperature under control.


The F015 Luxury in Motion Research Vehicle from Mercedes-Benz

And, as Business Insider recently covered in an April 10 report, the connected car market has seen unprecedented growth over the past 10 years. The report estimates that, by 2020, “75% of cars shipped globally will be built with the necessary hardware to allow people to stream music, look up movie times, be alerted to traffic and weather conditions, and even power driving-assistance services such as self parking.”

If this prediction proves to be correct, then it’s easy to draw the conclusion that 75 percent of new cars created just five years from now will be compatible with the Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch app from Porsche Connect

The Apple Watch app from Porsche Connect

Tesla was the first marque to have an Apple Watch app be created for its vehicles. On Jan. 30, more than three months before the watch’s April 24 ship date, ELEKSsoftware introduced their app for the watch in a YouTube video, which you can see above. Though they described a complicated design process, the app closely mimics the existing Apple app used to control the basic functions of a Model S. As they explained on their website, the watch does not act as an independent platform; rather, the watch is a secondary screen for the iPhone. This means information must be relayed from the watch to the phone, then from the phone to the car, or vice-versa.


The Apple Watch app for BMW

On April 24, as the first customers began receiving their Apple Watch deliveries, Porsche and BMW both announced that they had joined the Apple Watch app market. Porsche Car Connect and BMW i Remote, both apps that already existed in the Apple App Store, have now been made compatible with the Apple Watch. From the Porsche, BMW and Tesla apps, cars can be turned on and off, locked or unlocked, have their sunroof and windows opened or closed, temperatures set and more.


Both the i8 and the i3 are compatible with the BMW Apple Watch App

So where do we go from here? Will all cars rely on the Apple Watch or a platform like it for access, making a complete move away from even needing a key at all? Not quite.

BMW has also released their own version of a remote screen that controls their car. In their April 17 unveiling of the new 7 Series, they also unveiled their new key fob. It features an LCD screen that controls many of the same features the Apple Watch app can control. It’s not unlikely that many other manufacturers, despite already pairing with Apple Carplay technology, will also create their own version of BMW’s new fob as a way to reach customers that may not necessarily be a fan of Apple products.

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Though Audi hasn’t released an app for the Apple Watch yet, it does have Audi Connect software. This software brings streaming and infotainment services straight to the dashboard, and now, through a pilot partnership with Amazon and DHL Parcel, it can turn your car into a delivery address for your online purchases.

Regardless of which company is creating these new wireless access points, there are absolutely no signs of a slowdown in creation of connectivity. Whether you refer to it as the “Internet of Things” or the “Connected Car Market,” a new realm of industry is being created, where the line between hardware and software is increasingly blurred.


Within the next five to ten years, the technology of the future will be readily accessible to the world. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the world is ready for it. In the example of autonomous vehicles, legislation and traffic laws are nowhere near ready to allow for their wide-scale use. And the cultural readiness may not be fully be there either. Bussiness Insider’s report projects that, of the estimated 220 million connected cars on the road in 2020, only 88 million will actually utilize those services.

With the growth rates of the luxury automotive segment and increased demand for new vehicles, we have a feeling those numbers may be quite a bit higher. Of course, only time will tell.


(Source: Porsche, BMW, ELEKSsoftware, Business Insider, Apple, Daimler Media)