According to Valerie Shuman, Vice President of Industry Programs for the Connected Vehicle Trade Association, the connected car is not a thing of the future. It’s here today.

Speaking as part of “The Digital Dash,” panel at the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas, Shuman says connectivity is here now thanks to the number of cars with AUX jacks that allow consumers to connect smartphones to their vehicle’s entertainment system, “that’s when you can start to bring in lots of content that competes with radio and people are doing just that.”

For broadcasters, she says that means starting to think of radio in the car as being part of an “in vehicle computing platform,” not as the dominant feature on car dashboards, “think of it as being on a laptop or smartphone. The old two knobs and dial set up is pretty much gone.”

Both NAB Director of Digital Strategies Skip Pizzi and Senior Director of Technology and Standards for the Consumer Electronics Association Mike Bergman echoed Shuman’s thoughts. Pizzi showed pictures of the presets in connected cars where online and satellite channels were on virtual buttons right next to AM and FM outlets.

Berman showed the expectations for meteoric growth in aftermarket car entertainment units that support internet radio options. This, he says, means in-car listening to internet radio may build rapidly, “As manufacturers react to internet radio and integrate it more smoothly, expect listening to grow significantly over next few years.”

Driving that demand is the rapidly growing numbers of people who own smartphones which are changing consumer’s expectations. Jon Bucci, Executive Vice President of Concannon Business Consulting, explained that 67% of drivers owning smartphones and they spend an average of 16.5 hours per week in their vehicles. “Customers want their content when they want it, how they want it, and don’t stand in my way if you are a car company.”

Summing up the situation, Shuman showed the audience a picture of an elephant climbing into a small car. “[Broadcasters] have been alone on the dashboard for a very long time. Now new things are getting into the car with you. So either tame the elephant and teach it to do tricks or you’ll get smushed by it.”