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Mainstream car buyers, emerging markets – everyone wants high-end cockpit electronics

Megatrends speaks to Amit Jain, head of Visteon India, about the company’s focus on vehicle electronics and the importance of tailoring connectivity solutions for car buyers in emerging markets and mainstream consumers in all markets. By Freddie Holmes

Visteon’s transformation into what the company’s new Chief Executive Sachin Lawande calls “the new Visteon” has underlined the fact that electronics is big business within the automotive industry.

At the core of this transition has been a restructuring of its portfolio to specialise in cockpit electronics, including instrument clusters, head-up displays (HUD), infotainment and telematics – all key elements of the connected car.

Amit Jain has been at the company since 2007, moving from Director of Business Development globally to Country Head, India, and Associate Director South East Asia in October 2012. In an interview with Megatrends, Jain gave high-level oversight into the driving forces behind connectivity, and the company’s next steps.

Visteon SmartCore

In which areas of the connected car is Visteon seeing the strongest demand?

The automotive cockpit electronics market is one of the fastest growing segments and is expected to be 40% to 45% of the industry’s global demand in the next decade. Visteon is exclusively focussed on this segment and is well positioned to capitalise on this growth.

Cockpit electronics will influence the overall brand value of the vehicle. If the end consumer has a pleasant experience while interfacing with the cockpit electronics, the overall driving experience will be positive. This is what Visteon wants to be known for. We want to be at the forefront of technology and invest in intellectual properties related to infotainment, instrument clusters, head-up displays, and connectivity to the Cloud and the Internet.

How does demand in India compare to your observations elsewhere?

In India, we see growth and fast adoption of apps and connectivity, such as device connectivity to the head unit, OEM specific apps and connectivity to the Cloud. Secondly, we predict growth in frugal innovation concepts like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in entry-level cars. The device could be a smartphone or a tablet, which can be used to interface with the audio system and provide tethered connectivity at the same time.

Thirdly, user interfaces with simplified human-machine interface (HMI)/regional HMI and voice-based user interface technologies connected to the cloud will also evolve. Finally, there will be a growth in telematics penetration in the market. Commercial vehicles (CVs) and the taxi segment would be the first to witness this growth, followed by the passenger car segment.

How important is the millennial consumer group, that is, those drivers brought up expecting high-tech systems as standard?

Millennials are the first of the digital natives, the tech-savvy kids brought up in the digital age. They adopt new technology earlier, spend significant parts of their day with digital media and produce more user-generated content online.

They desire the expansion of their networked life while driving as well. Inside the car they expect seamless synchronisation between the vehicle and the various smart devices they use, be it a smart watch, smartphone, tablet or other wearable devices. They also expect the same intuitive user experience inside the vehicle that they know from their smart devices.

Connectivity is potentially more essential, yet also possibly more challenging, in those emerging markets that are less developed than India. Is this a fair point?

Visteon Instrument ClusterYes, absolutely. Regarding connectivity in general, two thirds of the world is still not connected and the majority of this gap is in the emerging markets. Bringing connectivity to these countries would mean more access to and exchange of information offering an opportunity to facilitate social and economic growth.

What is the main focus of connectivity technology development for emerging markets?

Specifically for the automotive sector – and looking at future forecasts – I would say that for emerging markets, the priority for technology development and market introduction would be safety and connectivity.

Why is this?

In-vehicle connectivity would enable OEMs to build better and safer vehicles, and would allow government agencies to enforce traffic and other regulations more effectively. However, cost pressures, infrastructure limitations and the absence of important and affordable use cases – which can increase perceived value to consumers – inhibit the OEMs from investing more in connectivity.

In the near future, with the proposed investment in digital infrastructure by government and telecoms, and the increase in the percentage of young car buyers who value and appreciate the need for in-vehicle connectivity, OEMs will consider investing in built-in modem and telematics technologies which would provide more options for connectivity, rather than relying only on the smartphone.

Consumers now demand technologies in mass-produced ‘cost-efficient vehicles’ that were previously reserved for luxury or premium vehicles. How has Visteon approached the challenge of developing a system that can be integrated and adapted for a range of vehicle segments?

Today, consumers want more features; in fact they associate the car cockpit with their living room, expecting the same user experience whether they are driving a B-segment or C-segment car.

At Visteon, we are building scalable product ranges which address the cross platform and model variant needs of the OEMs. Our OpenAir infotainment range provides flexible in-vehicle connectivity and an advanced entertainment solution, and is based on open architecture, human-machine interface (HMI) command and controls, and off-board wireless data connections.

In addition, SmartCore is a new connected infotainment system that combines previously separate driver, infotainment and Cloud connectivity units into one box. Multiple domains can run side-by-side on scalable hardware with different operating systems, greatly reducing system complexity. Depending on the number of displays to be driven and the number of operating systems in the cockpit, SmartCore hardware can be scaled up or down thus catering to OEM and consumer needs at an optimum cost.

How does connectivity tie in with autonomous driving – can one work without the other?

Connectivity is independent of the launch of autonomous cars, but the vice versa is not possible. A plethora of features which improve the user experience revolve around connectivity today.

From a global perspective, to make autonomous driving a reality, connectivity is required. This is going to take considerable effort by telecom service providers, government organisations, device manufacturers, content providers, OEMs and suppliers.

It is predicted that fully autonomous cars will make it to market only by 2030. In India, maybe in the next 15 years we can predict semi-autonomous cars which would alert the driver, however, this would first require advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to be implemented in cars in India. In turn, this will require the implementation of ADAS as a regulation, with stringent traffic rules, regulated traffic and investment in road infrastructure.

This article appeared in the Q4 2015 issue of Automotive Megatrends Magazine. Follow this link to download the full issue.

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