The added connectivity will let carmakers change their business model from pure hardware to tech innovators that draw income from mobile apps. To do that, however, vehicle manufacturers will need to team up with companies such as Google, Apple and Samsung.
"To facilitate that kind of shift, connected-vehicle leaders in automotive organizations need to partner with existing ecosystems like Android Auto or Apple CarPlay that can simplify access to and integration of general mobile applications into the vehicle," Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski said in the report.
Half of all vehicle infotainment systems capable of smartphone integration will use Apple's upcoming "iOS in the Car" by 2018, according to a report earlier this year by ABI Research.
Koslowski predicts that connected-car technology will eventually be "more innovative and exciting" than current smartphone and tablet offerings.
Gartner predicts that 58% of U.S. and 53% of German vehicle owners want tech firms, not car companies, to take the in-vehicle technology steering wheel.
Today's connected-vehicle experience, based on automakers' own proprietary systems, lacks the functionality and intuitiveness of mobile devices, Koslowski noted.
To that end, by 2018, two automakers will have announced plans to become technology companies and expand their connected-vehicle value experiences to other industries and devices. And by 2020, at least one auto company will achieve 10% of its total revenues from connected mobility and service offerings.
As the amount of information being fed into in-car head unit or telematics systems grows, vehicles will be able to capture and share not only internal systems status and location data, but also changes in surroundings in real time, Koslowski said during a discussion earlier this year on connected cars.
Ultimately, your car will become just another part of your mobile data plan.
The increasing importance of human-machine interface (HMI) and cloud-supported user experiences in cars will shift the industry's R&D focus to new technology and content innovations such as gesture and mood sensing, consumer behavior analysis, and vehicle- and customer-centric services.
Voice-activated apps, in-vehicle cameras and heads-up displays (HUDs) will be key to achieving the safe use of mobile technology in cars and trucks.
Earlier this year, a prototype HUD, called Navdy, was launched as a crowdsourcing project. The company hopes to raise $60,000 for production. Other companies, such as GPS manufacturer Garmin, also have released HUDs, as have some high-end vehicles, such as Cadillac, BMW and Lexus. The HUDs project information like speed, infotainment system functions and navigation directions on a portion of the windshield in front of the driver.
In-vehilce HUD systems can run $3,000 or more today.
"The industry's current focus [is] on creating proprietary content platforms for integrating as many general mobile applications as possible that already exist on other mobile devices (that is, smartphones)," the report said.
In the future, apps will be tailored to in-vehicle services, such as scheduling service appointments, driver-related content such as real-time navigation updates, and streaming music and video services -- and even the ability to shop online or find and then pay for parking online.