The Car in the Age of Connectivity: Enabling Car to Cloud Connectivity

Learn how TE Connectivity is transforming technology to enable the connected car

Advancements in enabling connected cars are astonishing. From the time the first Model T rolled off the factory floor, cars’ functionality has been largely unchanged. When advances did happen, they were mostly mechanical: a bigger engine, more efficient transmissions, safer brakes, and more.

Today, we are witnessing a radical reimagining of the automobile. Advances in connectivity are creating opportunities in the automotive industry. Dashboard navigation, infotainment systems, and Bluetooth-enabled dashboards are a glimmer of what is coming in the not-so- distant future.

In 2015, McKinsey estimated that the number of networked cars would rise by 30% a year1. By 2018, automobiles with connected capabilities were almost 39% of the US market2. By 2020, Gartner estimates that 250 million connected vehicles will be on the roadways, “making [them] a major element of the Internet of Things”3. By 2022, the market penetration is expected to reach over 80%4. Much of this growth will start in premium cars and then the technology will filter down into the value segment.

Cloud connectivity, antennas capable of sharing data with many nodes both inside and outside the vehicle, sensors that create a safer and more informed driving experience and rugged, high-speed, in-vehicle data networks are all vital to achieving the seamless, connected, feature-rich automotive future consumers are demanding. TE Connectivity’s (TE) deep understanding of rigorous automotive standards as well as our unparalleled expertise in sensors, data networks, interconnects, and antenna technology can help accelerate success for carmakers in this burgeoning market.

One thing to keep in mind is that while all automobiles share much of the same technology, connected cars and autonomous cars are different topics. Connectivity is turning the car into smart devices with the potential to become crucial pieces in enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). Autonomy means cars gain the capacity to gather input for independent decision-making so that they can be self-reliant.


Since the late 1970s, electronically controlled sensors have been integral to automotive engineering due to emissions regulations from the United States Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) that required the use of catalytic converters5. This regulation drove the demand for sensors and helped create performance, safety, and comfort advantages. Car owners now expect advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane departure warning (LDW), traffic sign recognition (TSR), blind spot monitoring (BSM), and intelligent high-beam assistants with light ranging (ILB). Increasingly car owners want telematic modules and other units, such as those used for toll collecting and real time traffic reporting, or rain sensors that gathered weather information.

By 2020, new model cars will have upwards of 200 sensors measuring data within the car and around its immediate environment6. It’s estimated that these cars will be generating 4 terabytes of data per car per day.7

Sensing the World

For the connected car to reach its full potential, a key requirement will be the ability to capture correct and complete data about the surrounding environment. This starts with sophisticated sensor technology that determines a vehicle’s immediate environment. The technology that will prove critical in collecting this data includes high-resolution mono and stereo cameras, radar, and sensors capable of pinpointing objects up to 120 meters away—within one centimeter.

When transmitted by advanced Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) antennas, sensor- generated data enables vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, which includes vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications.

When vehicle systems relay sensor-generated data, drivers can receive alerts about road conditions and driving hazards, such as congested roads, highway debris, or potholes—all well in advance of encountering these problems. When vehicle systems are connected to the roadway infrastructure, sensor generated data can supply accurate, real-time traffic data allowing mapping programs to plot the most efficient route, so drivers save time and greenhouse gas emissions are minimized.

“A lot of the sensors business is driven by what’s happening in electronics. So you see a lot of miniaturization, lower power. When you’re talking about a car, you’re talking about what’s going on inside of a cabin, what’s going on inside the engine. Or even what’s going on outside of a car.”

Byron Hill, VP, CTO, TE Sensor Solutions

Sensing Performance

Equally important will be internal sensing technology. TE offers a wide range of sensors for automotive applications including those that measure everything from position, speed, and humidity (in-cabin, engine air intake) to pressure (brake HPS, urea) and temperature. For example, humidity sensors are designed to improve performance, reduce energy consumption, and increase safety in environments where temperature affects performance. Our fluid property sensors bring real-time fluid monitoring to engines, fuel systems, selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems, compressors, transmissions, gearboxes, and many other applications. Sensors within the engine, transmission, and braking systems will open the door to an era of predictive maintenance, where vehicles can schedule a visit to the mechanic before an issue arises.

Sensing Wellness

Biometric sensor technology will be another, increasingly important area for innovation. Soon, face, ocular, voice, or ECG technology will enable cars to recognize their driver. Rather than using a key or pressing a keyless start button, the driver will simply grab the steering wheel and embedded biometric sensors will start the car. Piezo sensors embedded in the car seat will monitor heart rate while dashboard cameras will track head movements to see if a driver is getting drowsy. Expertise in both medical device technology and consumer wellness applications—including health and fitness monitors—gives TE an advantage in developing and ruggedizing the miniature sensors that will make driver (and passenger) health monitoring an essential part of the connected driving experience. [READ MORE]