From standalone GPS navigation units to having navigation on our smartphones with real-time traffic updates and now to an increasing number of new cars equipped with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay systems which can either mirror your smartphone or become your smartphone… we won’t be getting autonomous cars anytime soon but one thing is for sure, our cars are becoming more connected.
As cars become more connected, a new ecosystem within the automotive industry is being formed with the involvement of technology companies, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and other companies that operate outside of the scope of traditional motoring. Think Google’s Open Automotive Alliance. Collaborations like this are becoming the norm in order to meet the changing needs of the consumer with new and innovative products and services. According to industry analysts, these developments are expected to increase the number of connected cars from 15 million today to 69 million by 2020.
Having cars as connected as our smartphones requires integrating mobile telecommunications, operating systems, content platforms and real-time analytics into our drives. When connected cars were first available half a decade ago, most of its functionality was related to traditional car issues like maintenance notifications and parts ordering for luxury vehicles, GPS navigation and parking / proximity awareness systems.
But increasingly, the functionality is changing. You can now Spotify your songs or listen to online radio. But there is greater integration now between cars and our lives and it goes beyond just music. For example, certain BMW models come with Concierge Service where at the press of a button, you get to ask a call center personnel where to get the tastiest nasi lemak around you; there’s no need to type it in a search engine.
Connected car products and services can mostly be grouped into five core functional clusters:
These features and functions are continuously being expanded as reliance on technology continues to grow towards the Internet of Things (IOT). The automobile looks to be one of the IOT channels as it becomes not just a mode of transport but a lifestyle avenue.
Audi Connect Easy Delivery is an example of how companies from different industries are collaborating in this area. Audi is collaborating with DHL, an international courier service, and Amazon, an online shopping platform, to bring convenience to online shopping. Audi owners can now make purchases on Amazon and have their orders delivered to their car. “Why do we even need this?”, you ask. Because technology enables DHL to locate your car in a car park, enter a security code to open the boot and leave your shopping in it without requiring you to break a sweat signing for delivery. “Why do we even need this?”, you ask again. We don’t just yet. We also didn’t need a camera in our phones a decade and a half ago. Or 10,000 songs in our playlist, categorized by mood and occasion.
Examples like these show how connected cars are connecting non-automotive companies to the automotive ones. Adoption levels of these features will of course vary depending on the ease-of-use and how immediate its impact is to your in-car or driving experience. Functions like GPS navigation, phone mirroring, maintenance diagnostics or emergency services see quicker adoption. And as these ‘needs’ are gradually being fulfilled, we look to integrate other features into our in-car experience. This can include mobile payment services for fuel, toll or fast food drive-thrus and online shopping as well as other convergence services which are underutilized.
The connected car of the future will see it ‘talking’ to other vehicles on the road, to buildings and possibly to the road itself, as it manages our driving and frees up more ‘me’ time in the car. You’ll have more chances to catch up on your favorite show, shop online or talk to your fridge and oven or post selfies; and you’ll never hold up traffic doing all that.