In the previous post of this series, we looked into the nature of connected cars to establish if they’ve already become an integral part of our daily lives. Today, having analyzed multiple surveys, reports and interviews with industry leaders, we tried to put together five trends that, in our opinion, will shape the Connected Cars industry in 2015.
Infotainment technology has “completely revolutionized cars and the automotive business as a whole,” according to electronics industry researcher IHS Inc. Their survey showed that infotainment systems now account for as much as 10% of the price of buying a new car, and 60% of drivers across all markets prefer to access features in this way.
The car manufacturers foresaw the growing trend. At the latest CES 2015, Audi, in partnership with NVIDIA Corp., has presented a fully digital dashboard, which replaces the instrument cluster in front of the driver. The high-fi display has exceptional clarity and top-notch 3D graphics, which can come in handy for reading key gauges in certain lighting conditions.
Volkswagen took the matter even further, having introduced the Golf R Touch concept vehicle, which features an infotainment system that recognizes gestures, going beyond standard touchscreens.
Jaguar Land Rover, in its turn, has introduced justDrive, which turns apps and services from your smartphone into a voice-activated experience. So, instead of browsing your apps in search for the nearest gas station, you can just ask. JustDrive will search your apps for you to find that gas station, play a specific song from your smartphone, or even send a text, with much less distractions involved.
Better Safe Than Sorry
According to the study by Telefonica, 73% of drivers consider safety as the most important feature of a connected car.
So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the EU has mandated the installation of an “eCall” system in new cars by the end of 2015. This system automatically calls emergency services in case of an accident, even if the driver is unconscious. The eCall is estimated to help save up to 2,500 lives a year.
Another safety feature that’s being widely implemented in the connected cars is Vehicle-to-Vehicle communication (or, simply, V2V), the wireless transmission of data between motor vehicles.
It works like this: if there’s a risk of an accident, the driver simply receives a warning or the car itself takes preemptive actions and slows down. The report, from the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), found that V2V tech could stop up to 592,000 crashes per year, saving more than 1,000 lives.
With these numbers in mind, it makes perfect sense The The U.S. government acted last year to mandate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology in future vehicles.
The young drivers present both new challenges and opportunities for the car manufacturers. They are the first to jump on board with the idea of connectivity, and they are the ones who have the most expectations of it. A survey by SBD, a European consultancy, shows that 80% of young drivers (aged 18-24) would like cars to better “understand my preferences, predict what I need and guide me.” They are already looking beyond Connected Cars to Perceptive Cars.
Cars manufacturers caught these expectations early on. At CES 2014, Johann Jungwirth, head of Mercedes Benz US R&D, spoke of the Predictive User Experience: “Within the next ten years, consumers can look forward to a vehicle with contextual intelligence that will know their habits and adapt to their wishes.”
Let’s Keep It Private
While Connected Cars bring plenty of entertainment and safety-enhancing features to the table, the issue of privacy becomes more and more important. The recent survey from McKinsey & Company shows that 37 percent of drivers are reluctant to use connected cars because of the potential threat to their privacy.
“Data transmitted from a connected car could tell someone a lot about the driver,” says Prasad Satyavolu, head of innovation at Cognizant Technology Solutions. “How fast [and how well] they drive, where they are, what routes they take, what times they typically drive, even what music they listen to.”
At the same time, the collected data helps to provide the safety and customization features, described in the previous points. Dr. Rainer Mehl, Head of Manufacturing Consulting at NTT Data thinks the possible compromise can lie in making the car data anonymous. “Manufacturers need to show that car usage data is impersonalized when it’s gathered. If the customer is happy to share personalized data – for insurance purposes, say – then that’s OK, but it needs to be clear what the situation is.”
“Look, Mama, No Hands!”
Fully automated, driverless cars are still far from being a part of the mainstream, but they are no longer products of science fiction imagination either. Tech giants like Google and carmakers including Volvo and Ford already made the first steps in bringing self-driving cars to the market.
The integration of these models will take significant resources, but the main problem, surprisingly enough, lies in the mindsets of the customers.
“There is no technology barrier from going where we are now to the autonomous car,” said Jim McBride, a Ford Research and Innovation technical expert who specializes in autonomous vehicle technologies. “There are affordability issues, but the big barrier to overcome is customer acceptance.”
Nevertheless, the current attitude doesn’t stop car manufacturers from developing smart driving systems. Just lately, Audi, for example, drove its piloted A7 (named “Jack”) more than 550 miles from Palo Alto, California to Las Vegas, Nevada – all without driver intervention. And it’s even promised to offer a self-driving model within the next two years.
Connected Cars become more and more integrated into our lives. With the current pace, perhaps, it won’t be long before we’ll all have a faithful KITT-like companion, capable of delivering us to our destination with safety, fun, and occasional sarcastic remarks.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!