Connectivity underpins the auto industry’s future

Key takeaways from Connected Car Detroit, a conference dedicated to the future of vehicle connectivity

Soon all cars will be connected, offering owners and users a multitude of convenience and efficiency-related services, as well as on-demand infotainment. But that’s in the future – right now, OEMs need to work out how to get there, and how to make it pay. Martin Kahl heard auto industry experts discuss all of this and more at Connected Car Detroit.

From ‘connected car’ to ‘car’

To date, the car has been a standalone aspect of daily life. No longer. For ‘connected car’, read ‘car’. Once an internet black spot, the car is increasingly just another place to sit and surf. OEMs and suppliers want car users to be able to move seamlessly from home to car and back again without a break in service. Less connected car, more connected customer. We’re always online – why should that stop for the sake of a tedious commute? A well-developed connectivity strategy offers potentially endless possibilities, noted Mike Tinskey, Ford’s Director of Global Emerging Services – Connectivity; from usage-based insurance to ADAS-related safety improvements, and even having your car pay automatically at car parks, fast food drive-throughs and tool booths. And given that within just a few years, all cars will be connected, the discussion around the connected car is one that could be relatively short-lived.

The voice of the consumer

Distraction-free infotainment, a great user experience, and a connection – a bond even – between driver and vehicle; this may be all that customers want, but it’s a major set of challenges for OEMs to get right. However, get it right they must, insisted Kurt Hoppe of GM’s Connected Car division. Linking all of these attributes is voice, said Ned Curic, Vice President of Amazon Alexa in his keynote address at the event. “The connected car is just going to happen. Every OEM is going to connect all its vehicles between 2020 and 2025.” Amazon’s Alexa is known for its home infotainment technology, and Curic noted that the smart home is currently the number one use-case for connected voice. Now he wants to connect the car and home experiences. With Alexa on-board, natural voice will address those aforementioned challenges – whilst of course also ensuring a continuation of the Amazon service that in the US alone already accounts for 44 cents in every dollar spent online.

User experience is key

It may be true that in future, all OEMs will connect their cars, but if that connected car experience is inadequate, customers – whether private buyers or mobility fleets – will make an immediate association between technology and brand. That experience can impact future sales; a customer who has a good brand experience will spend up to 141% more than one who does not, said Dealerware’s Russ Lemmer. And a lack of trust in the technology is reflected in brand perception: “Without trust, there is no brand success,” warned Kai Adolphs of Kantar TNS. “The two most important considerations for connectivity are personalisation and contextualisation,” said Olaf Gietelink of TomTom; and if the user experience is limited to getting into and out of an effectively anonymous vehicle, with no discernible or memorable traits, then OEMs might as well prepare to build white goods, was the damning conclusion of Mayer Brown’s Marjorie Loeb.

Cyber security – change in culture needed

A picture of a snapping turtle opened a talk by Chuck Brokish of Green Hills Software; heavily armoured they may be, but they have a weakness, namely a soft underbelly. Cyber security cannot afford to be the auto industry’s snapping turtle, he cautioned. A vehicle needs to be heavily fortified, with security designed from the inside out. The increasingly software-oriented nature of cars may be transforming the auto industry, as Ozgur Tohumcu, CEO of Tantalum suggested, but Brokish’s concern is that “A well-funded attacker could get past a firewall in a matter of minutes and bypass intrusion detection easily.” We need a change in culture, agreed Geoffrey Wood of TowerSec Harman, “so that cyber security is not an afterthought, but part of the fabric of product development.” Derek Prentice of FEV concurred: “Security needs to be built-in from the beginning, and connectivity must begin in the architecture and design of a vehicle.”

Get ready for MaaS transportation

Whether Transport as a Service (TaaS) or Mobility as a Service (MaaS), OEMs must prepare for an automotive industry future in which people use, rather than buy their vehicles. Ravi Puvvala, CEO of Savari, advocated a Netflix-style subscription for mobility services: “I’d like to pay for a monthly service to be able to take any transport service I like.” Allaa Hilal of IMS agreed: the automotive industry is undergoing a paradigm shift, as it moves from ownership to usership. Moving away from costly ownership models, and being able to use cars without having to own them – and later without even needing to drive them – will enable vehicle users to save money and make better use of their time. But none of that will be possible without connectivity, emphasised TomTom’s Gietelink: “Connectivity is the foundation of all the new services in the automotive industry.”


This article appeared in the Q2 2018 issue of Automotive Megatrends Magazine. Follow this link to download the full issue

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