At a two day conference in Amsterdam this week, representatives from the automotive industry including car manufacturers, infotainment equipment suppliers, insurers and app developers gathered to discuss the prospect of the connected car, writes Smart Highways reporter Nick Simmons.
Whilst autonomous vehicles have long been identified as the next big automotive advance, engineers have also set about the seemingly less ambitious, but still problematic, challenge of delivering the connected car. This was the 4th Annual Connected Cars event, so perhaps it is turning into a more protracted project than you might initially expect.
A connected car is equipped with Internet access that allows the car to receive and send data to other devices, both inside and outside of the vehicle. Many car drivers seem keen to experience this: 50% say they would change brand to get a connected car and 65% say their next purchase will definitely be a connected car.
Smartphones already offer a connected in car experience, allowing users to make calls and stream music from their devices through the car’s systems. The challenge is to serve up other applications installed on the phone such as navigation, parking or traffic products in a safe and integrated way in the vehicle and linked to the audio system and perhaps also other in-car systems.
Car manufacturers find themselves in a difficult position. Customers are used to and love their own smartphone experience, be it Apple or Android and many simply want that replicated on an existing screen in the car.
Car OEMs could deliver this functionality via technologies like Android Auto, Apple CarPlay or MirrorLink. This might please their customers. However, they risk losing control of key aspects of their own product and in car environment, as well as simultaneously handing vast amounts of valuable and sensitive data to Google, Apple and others. So manufactures are also developing their own connected solutions and associated apps hoping to tempt customers away from the more familiar Apple and Android alternatives.
As the conference sessions demonstrated, solve the problem of who owns the customer and you still have to build a business case: 21% of consumers say they would pay for connected car services but the majority still expect them to be bundled in with the purchase cost of the car.
Today BMW and Volvo lead the field in terms of connected car users and innovation. Other manufacturers are looking to catch up and there are business models that suggest the connected car concept will work.
OEMs keen to extend relationships with customers beyond the initial purchase see uses for the connected car. These include servicing, remote fault diagnostics, repair and system upgrades, all designed to provide more efficiency, personalisation and profit.
Insurance companies have started to make the telematics business case stack up in the young driver market and they seem to think that this new generation of drivers who have been used to a connected and monitored driving experience in return for safety and financial benefits might extend into other demographics.
Plus, value added services like navigation, parking, fuel and traffic all create revenue generating opportunities for both OEMS and 3rd party suppliers, as well as delivering useful features to customers.
The conference also heard several times that other benefits to the connected car could include access to email and social media on the move but perhaps we should wait for the autonomous connected car to become a reality before fully embracing this level of multi tasking.