COMMENT: Connected services mean cars will know us as intimately as our phones

It’s distasteful for some, but many of our lives are irrevocably tied up in digital services. Access to these must be seamless in tomorrow’s car. By Xavier Boucherat

Relatively recent updates to iOS and Android devices have introduced millions of users to usage-monitoring apps such as Screen Time. These have produced some sobering results: a survey by Code Computerlove, a UK-based digital services consultancy, concluded that in the UK, the average length of time looking at cell phone screens was around three hours and 23 minutes a day. It’s an uncomfortable truth for some, but it’s also proof, if proof were needed, of the extent to which people’s lives have migrated online, in both social and professional contexts.

Whilst idle swiping through social medias may account for much of that screen time, there are also the important emails, the appointment calendars, the messages between loved ones and much more besides that have become indispensable to navigating modern life.

Access to these services is expected 24 hours a day, and the idea of environments where access is not available is becoming increasingly untenable. This includes the car

Access to these services is expected 24 hours a day, and the idea of environments where access is not available is becoming increasingly untenable. This includes the car.

Already, ventures like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are attempting to make safe use of services possible for drivers. The task facing automakers will be to allow a seamless transfer of a driver or passenger’s digital life into the vehicle, through innovations of their own and through co-operation with tech giants. Tomorrow’s cars will effectively pull personalities down from the cloud, whether through Spotify playlists, monitored eBay auctions or to-do lists. This is particularly important ahead of high level self-driving cars, when drivers will find themselves with more time on their hands, and wanting or needing the accompanying drive to be productive, or entertaining.

In enabling all this, mobility providers, and perhaps automakers in particular, will also have a specific demographic in mind: averages from the same study show a jump to four hours a day for the 16-to-24-year-old bracket. Quality connected services could be key in building brand allegiance in those who cannot afford, or have no need of, a private vehicle at present, but may turn their attention to the idea in future. But along with building allegiance, connected services will be important for retaining loyalty: market research in China conducted by BMW has found that 60% of customers would change brands were certain connected services not included.

But if the auto-industry is looking to tech sector and digital domain for the path ahead, perhaps there’s another emerging trend they might be wise to keep in mind: the digital detox

But if the auto-industry is looking to tech sector and digital domain for the path ahead, perhaps there’s another emerging trend they might be wise to keep in mind: the digital detox.

Code Computerlove’s survey found that 43% of 16-to-24-year-olds, and 41% of 25-to-34-year-olds, have attempted to limit if not completely cut off their use of phones, and of those, nearly 88% reported feeling a lot better or a little better. Continuing studies into the potentially detrimental effects of too much screen time on concentration, as well as fears for privacy, have spurred such developments. Tomorrow’s smart cars should also be ready to help accommodate those looking to spend more time in the moment, or those who value their privacy, by not locking them in to digital ecosystems against their will.

Further insight into vehicular connected services from automakers, suppliers, developers and analysts is now available in Automotive World‘s latest special report, “The future of connected vehicle services“.

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