Historically, most of the cutting-edge technology in the vehicles we drive stayed under the hood, keeping everything running smoothly and safely. However, the popularity of infotainment systems, not to mention the incremental revenue these high-priced options bring to manufacturers, has created a perfect storm for their rapid adoption in the automotive industry. To that end, here are some of the newest trends popping up, and where the industry will go in the future.

First, we had Ford (NYSE: F) teaming up with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) to create Sync. The system's been a tremendous success by any measure, with 3 million installed units and 80% of new buyers opting for the $395 add-on. Unsurprisingly, this has ushered in a wave of imitators.

Toyota (NYSE: TM) fired back earlier this year with Entune. Now General Motors (NYSE: GM) has announced its own infotainment suite, MyLink, to pair with its OnStar system. Both new systems were built in conjunction with Research in Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) subsidiary QNX. Like Sync, MyLink which will offer Internet access via smartphone tethering, along with the usual suite of apps. Toyota's Entune, however, makes use of Bing, OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN), and Movietickets.com.

Rumors persist that Hyundai and fellow Korean electronics giant Samsung are teaming up for a project that may be more than simply creating a "me too" system. This partnership could potentially bring tablet computing right to your dashboard. Hyundai, via Kia, paired up with Microsoft as recently as 2008, so a possible switch to Samsung raises an eyebrow. Collaboration could mean that Google's Android operating system, which already runs on Samsung's tablet, could potentially power future Hyundais, too.

Finally, as advanced wireless technology spreads across the country, it's appropriate that Verizon (NYSE: VZ) recently brought its 4G LTE network to Detroit. General Motors just unwrapped a Buick concept that utilizes the additional cloud-based capabilities, like live images from traffic cams and videoconferencing, enabled by Verizon's 4G LTE.

Audi also announced its own 4G initiative with the help of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU). Audi plans to enable its large A8 sedan with Google Earth maps and navigation. The automaker has already proven that it can stream high-definition video to the vehicle's viewing screen.

Although we have already seen a massive leap forward, in-vehicle infotainment remains in its infancy. Individual manufacturers can't stand pat, lest their products start to look dated in the face of fierce competition. Expect more partnerships as the technology grows increasingly complex and integrated in our daily lives.

The large global auto market could be a ripe niche for the tech world, but it's too early to say which players will be the clear winners. Microsoft and Research in Motion appear to be the busiest in getting these systems working, but websites like OpenTable that become the app of choice for in-car convenience could ultimately benefit most.

Have any thoughts on infotainment and where it's headed? Leave a comment below!

David Williamson owns shares of General Motors and Hyundai. General Motors, Google, and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value choices. Google and OpenTable are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Ford Motor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Ford Motor, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.