Cloud computing is very much a feature of 'Web 2.0'. Rather than using a location-dependent center of resources such as a server, cloud computing uses shared servers, all of which can be used to provide resources, software and data.
For Average Joe, this might mean using web-based word processing software and file hosting rather than having to use those on a personal computer, allowing Joe to access and edit his files wherever he is in the world, from any internet-connected computer. For drivers of the Nissan LEAF, being connected to the cloud potentially offers a much more tailored experience than they'd get from a regular vehicle.
Airbiquity and Hitachi Automotive Systems have introduced a revolutionary connected services technology system that could make EV ownership more efficient. The companies provide the infrastructure used by Nissan with their Information and Communication Technology system (ICT).
What does this mean for the driver?
Being connected to the cloud means LEAF drivers will be able to not only locate the nearest charging station, but thanks to networked charging, they can even make sure that it's not already occupied. When not with the car, being connected to the cloud means drivers can keep tabs on their charge status, or set air-conditioning or heating ready for when they return. Imaging returning to your pleasantly-cooled LEAF on a roasting hot day...
Data can go the other way too. Nissan can remotely check on the status of the car, such as battery status, tire conditions and efficiency. Faults can be diagnosed and service reminders updated without the driver needing to go to their dealership, and if the need arises, warnings can be sent to the driver.
It also allows the manufacturer to analyse data on how the cars are being used, allowing them unprecedented data for making changes to future models and tailoring the car for the owners' usage. In theory, this could make for perfect model revisions.
Other manufacturers are in on the act too. As with Nissan, Ford, General Motors and Smart all have smartphone applications that allow remote interaction with the car and their respective ICT systems. GM have even been considering video chatting, home surveillance and testing for any damage done to the car via the cloud with upcoming Buicks. This would use GM's Onstar service and Verizon's 4G LTE network.
The future of cars, and electric cars in particular, will offer all the connectivity we currently enjoy via our smartphones and portable computers, and more. Though electric cars are more expensive than the prices we're used to with regular vehicles, cloud ICT systems almost certainly compensate to some degree by offering an ownership experience well beyond that of the cars we currently drive.