On Wednesday Toyota Advanced Technology Manager Bill Reinert showed off an all-electric car that you'll probably never drive, saying, "This car is not intended for sale, this car is intended for experimental purposes." The Scion iQ EV is a concept car -- a platform to try out technologies for the next generation of "connected" vehicles.
"Not just our smartphones and our tablets, but everything in our lives are gonna be internet enabled," said Gordon Feller, Cisco's Director of Urban Innovation. "And that's in fact happening as we speak. And the connected vehicle is the next big innovation in mobility."
That's why networking giant Cisco is holding an invitation-only meeting in San Francisco with Toyota as the cosponsor. They want to work with every car manufacturer to make vehicles as smart as everything else.
"The car knows as a result of my cell phone who's getting in the car," Feller said. "My wife likes classical and I like jazz, doesn't have to play jazz when she's in the car, only does it for me."
But the executives meeting Wednesday agree that this is only the beginning. Some of the same technologies used for safety and navigation features in this car could end up paving the way for whole cities full of cars that drive themselves.
Google has been showing off a prototype of a driverless car. But Reinert predicts bringing that technology to market will be a lot easier if the car companies and the networking companies start working together now to make city streets ready for the technology, "Having the hooks for things that don't exist now but you know they're coming so that you don't have to tear up the city streets and you don't have to reconfigure the cities to add new technologies."
Automakers are already showing off cars that talk to each other to avoid crashes, though they say a fully driverless car is at least 10 years away from the dealership. But in the meantime, connected city streets will have other benefits, "The network has sensors in the roadway or sensors in the parking space that the internet can tell my vehicle it's time to park because there's not gonna be a parking space after this sensor has established there's a free spot," Feller said.