TRAVERSE CITY, MI – The vehicle is fast becoming a connectivity hub for smartphone-toting consumers, and new capabilities for Bluetooth technology promise to put the pedal to the metal.

Mike Foley, executive director-Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), a standards organization, says the latest “4.0” version of the technology will open up a flurry of application possibilities in coming years.

Bluetooth 4.0, which uses fewer energy sensors, works faster and is less costly than previous iterations, soon will collect and track vehicle diagnostic information such as gear position, seatbelt status and tire pressure.

“It can sync data to both a car’s dashboard system and directly to a smartphone, removing the need for several pounds of wiring,” Foley tells attendees at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars here.

That means Bluetooth technology could help improve fuel economy by trimming weight. By taking less energy to operate and with silica prices falling every day, it also has potential to make electric vehicles more efficient and less costly for auto makers to build and consumer to buy.

Traditional repair costs could fall, too, Foley claims, with drivers receiving timely alert to their phones about potential vehicle problems. Repair technicians also could get the information wirelessly from the car, allowing them to stock the correct parts as well as schedule appointments with customers at the dealership.

Foley says sports and fitness, health and wellness and so-called “smart homes” will mark the first batch of new connections for drivers. Imagine data on a driver’s health shared wirelessly between the car, home and Internet, or controlling home lights, climate and entertainment from the car, he offers.

“Your car has the potential to become an extension of your connected world when you’re away from home, uniting the transient technologies you use daily,” Foley says.

Bluetooth SIG officials scoff at security concerns, saying their firewalls are as robust as those in the banking industry. They also expect the technology to take over more in-vehicle functions, such as airbag deployment, but do not see the growth area in the near term.

The executives are presenting at MBS for the first time, with hopes, they say, of drawing more auto makers and suppliers to their organization and alerting the industry to the rapidly evolving nature of wireless technology.

jamend@wardsauto.com