The automotive sector is on the brink of innovation and manufacturers are looking to provide their customers with vehicles that can enhance the driving experience. The passenger car segment has seen considerable evolution over the years, but other than digitisation of instruments and dials such as the speedometer, and implementation of GPS which has made it easier to find routes, the overall dashboard design and driver’s involvement has remained relatively unchanged over the last century. The development and deployment of the connected car will soon change this—and the transformation will be driven by how users interact with vehicles and the way they communicate with the world around them. From the moment the car door is unlocked to the time it pulls up to the final destination, the vehicle’s connected features will enable a fundamentally different experience for the driver and passenger, leaving many of today’s current pain points a thing of the past.
Drivers, data and onboard assistants
The development of onboard digital assistants will do away with many of the buttons and dials that clog up dashboards, allowing both drivers and passengers to control everything by voice, from adjusting the cabin environment to finding the best route for the journey. For the regular trips, connected cars will be able to learn preferred routes. If there are problems reported on the way it’ll warn the driver as soon as he gets into the vehicle, offering various alternative routes that still allow for the usual coffee stop. Connected transport could potentially do away with the frustrations of battling traffic jams and unexpected delays.
Even if the coast is clear, the car could inform the driver if any outlets enroute have special offers on coffee that day; he may decide to change the route ever so slightly if it means saving a few pennies. From the retailer’s perspective, connected vehicles offer new opportunities to directly market to drivers in the immediate vicinity as passengers could even use their journeys to order online shopping via one of the car’s displays or voice-detect features. The combination of driver-specific data alongside route preferences will enable the use of highly individualised advertising based on location, personal habits and vehicle status. This could be used to publicise local retailers and attractions, particularly to people driving in from out of town, helping local businesses to thrive.
And the removal of the need to physically drive a car not only makes us safer but it could move car-use away from mere ownership to a mobility-as-a-service type model. For businesses this opens up the ability to upsell services to customers that are just passing through which could prove crucial when people will have more time at their disposal.
Enhanced connectivity will also mean that in-car entertainment doesn’t need to stop once the drive is over, it will become one seamless experience. If an occupant is watching a movie on the car screen and reaches home while it’s still streaming, seamless connectivity between the devices means they can start watching it at home from where they left off in the driveway.
Breakdowns and bugs
Enhanced connectivity will also change the way mechanical issues and breakdowns are handled. In the past and sometimes even today, many car owners would just carry on driving when a warning light came on and hope it went away. The centralisation of records and real-time access to telematics and service logs will allow owners and service centres to deal with mechanical issues preemptively. This preventative approach will stop small problems with a vehicle from snowballing into larger, potentially more costly ones.
Bugs and software errors will be a thing of the past when intelligent connectivity also enables over-the-air software updates, allowing automatic fixing of bugs, and security enhancement. Manufacturers of course need to ensure these updates are rolled out in a thoughtful way, so that the engine software suddenly doesn’t start updating while the car is still on the road and results in a complete vehicle failure, risking the passengers’ safety.
If more critical breakdowns occur on the road, the always-on connectivity of smart vehicles also ensures detailed information can be accessed no matter when and where issues occur. This will ensure that drivers are sent to the most suitable, best-equipped service centre for the job. It can also allow for routine maintenance to be more easily scheduled and carried out, while manufacturers will be able to quickly spot more widespread issues with particular vehicle models.
This connected network will soon extend to roadside signage, traffic control systems and other street furniture. This vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity is coming faster than anyone expected. Just this month the UK announced that it will begin trialling connected infrastructure on its motorways by 2021.
Traffic won’t be the only thing flowing more smoothly with more components of the transport infrastructure talking to each other. Insurers will have a much clearer picture of what happened during accidents and collisions, including who was driving each vehicle and which companies have insured the other vehicles involved, while better-informed emergency services and recovery vehicles will be able to respond more efficiently.
The combination of all these data points will offer drivers more relevant, customised services while they’re behind the wheel. Having this so readily available opens up opportunities for all parts of the connected car ecosystem to bring new services to the market more cost-effectively than ever. With the opportunity to get involved in more varying aspects of people’s lives like a smartphone does, brands could become much more than just a badge on the front of the bonnet or a third-party logo on the dashboard’s touchscreen—they could help to enhance every aspect of the customer’s journey.
You cannot plan for the future of connected cars without planning world-class infrastructure. Solutions in the past have relied on physical SIMs—tying owners to one operator for the lifecycle of the car and making updates a challenge. Many believe that a unified approach to connectivity is the only way for drivers, manufacturers and the many other players involved in the automotive industry to realise the full potential of a connected car ecosystem.
A recent study found that the number of vehicles with embedded connectivity will reach 200 million globally by 2025; rising from 110 million in 2020. As the connected vehicle market continues to grow and evolve, more reliable infrastructure will enable all kinds of highly customised in-car features and services, which will only become more and more useful as more cars get connected. The future of connected transport is bright and is driving us toward great changes not just to our roads, but also how we travel over them.
About the author: Nick Mavrokordatos is Associate Director–Automotive IoT, at Tata Communications