NOVI, MI – There is much talk about how the connected car will change our lives, but what has to occur to bring it to fruition?

A lot, say panelists at a session on “turbocharging connectivity” at the 2017 WardsAuto User Experience Conference.

With lines of software code in the automobile expected to double or triple in the near future, from roughly 100 million lines today, it is easy to see why vehicles will have to have much more robust electrical architectures, as well as transmit information faster than 4G LTE allows.

“There’s an awful lot of ECUs in a car that gather information about performance and operation that need to be communicated in order to keep the efficiency of that vehicle the way it should be, and then be able to relay that information to other cars that may have the need for that information,” Scott Beutler, vice president-interior for Continental, says of future vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure data transmission needs.

He says Continental is focused on a variety of ways to make this happen, including improving systems integration so systems work together, and making networks pass along data faster.

How the information is presented to the user – the human-machine interface – also will be key to the success of autonomous cars, which will focus on how to offer new entertainment options when drivers decide to relax and watch a movie while their car proceeds automatically to his or her favorite coffee shop.

But connectivity also will have a huge impact on the safety of vehicle occupants and those around them, panelists say.

“Connectivity is the linchpin that will make advancements to solve our fatality problem,” Beutler says, noting there are 1.3 million fatalities annually caused by auto accidents on the world’s roads.

In partnership with NTT DOCOMO of Japan, Continental demonstrated 5G for automotive applications at spring technology shows in Japan. 5G promises 10 gigabits-per-second downlink speeds and faster response times, possibly as low as 1 millisecond via a wireless link. Conti says 5G will enable live map updates and high-density platooning, among other advantages.

Per an OpenSignal report last year, 4G LTE download speeds in the U.S. averaged 10 megabits per second. A megabit is 1 million bits of data; a gigabit is 1 billion bits.

In a 5G future, Beutler says vehicle line of sight will be improved, allowing automakers and suppliers to receive data from sensors from other vehicles and infrastructure within a 1.2-1.9-mile (2-to-3-km) range.

Furthermore, last month Continental said it would begin field trials of C-V2X (cellular vehicle-to-everything) technology, using Qualcomm’s 9150 C-V2X chipset, to demonstrate V2V, V2I and vehicle-to-pedestrian direct communication, as well as vehicle-to-network “wide area communications” for automated and connected-car use cases.

With C-V2X, Beutler says Continental sees start of production occurring in 2020 or 2021 and will enable scenarios such as telling the fifth car in a line of slow-moving traffic it is OK to pass safely, via sensor data that will be transmitted by the first car.

But sending and receiving data faster and faster over wireless networks isn’t the whole story of the connected car.