By Paul Lienert
DETROIT (Reuters) - Qualcomm Inc, a maker of smartphone chips and software, unveiled on Monday fourth-generation LTE modems that will enable cars to stay better-connected wirelessly to cloud-based services via the Web.
Cars using the new technology should be on the market within a few years' time.
Qualcomm's Snapdragon X12 and X5 modems are designed to be embedded in cars and work with owners' mobile devices to access a variety of Internet services, from streaming music to vehicle diagnostics.
Cars are becoming a key battleground for technology industry giants, including Google Inc and Apple Inc, as they seek to develop a market where drivers will be online while on the road.
"These modems will give carmakers and consumers an in-car experience that rivals the best smartphones," said Kanwalinder Singh, senior vice president of business development for Qualcomm Technologies. "Consumer expectations of the experience inside the car are being driven by their experiences with their smartphones."
Singh said the new modems are faster and will support advanced telematics and infotainment systems being developed for cars that could hit the market in the next two to three years.
Automakers and third-party service providers like the "ubiquitous connectivity" - the ability to stay connected to the Internet - offered by embedded modems.
The technology means, among other things, that dealerships can alert customers to when service is needed or if a part needs repair. In some cases, software can be upgraded over the air while the vehicle is parked overnight in a garage.
Insurance companies would also be able to offer vehicle owners a "good driving" discount, if they agree to have their driving habits monitored wirelessly and transmitted over the in-vehicle modem.
"The marriage of the smartphone and the car will be the next thing," Singh said.
In the future, mobile devices such as phones and tablets will be fully integrated with modems and software already embedded in the vehicle, he said.
That means owners will be able to access a wider variety of apps and services, and their cars will be able to communicate wirelessly with other vehicles - a technology known as V2V - to help avoid potential accidents and traffic jams.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)