Connected Cars 15

Nick Simmons' reports from the two day conference in Amsterdam, where representatives from the automotive industry, including car manufacturers, infotainment equipment suppliers, insurers and app developers gathered to discuss the prospect of the connected car.

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 protracted project.

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 like navigation, parking or traffic apps, for example, in a safe and integrated way through a screen in the vehicle and linked to the audio system.

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 a screen in the car.

Car OEMs could deliver this functionality via existing technologies, such as Android Auto, Apple CarPlay or MirroLink. This might please their customers. However, they risk loosing control of key aspects of their own product and in car environment, as well as simultaneously handing vast amounts of data to Google, Apple and others.

As the conference sessions demonstrated, solve the problem of who owns the customer and you still have to build the business case:  21% of consumers say they would pay for connected car services; the majority 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 manufactures 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 forsee uses for the connected car.  These include servicing, remote fault diagnostics, repair ad upgrades, all designed to provide more efficiency, personalisation, as well as profit.

Insurance companies have finally started to make the telematics business case stack up in the young driver market. They think these drivers will be less reluctant to use tracking models in future. 

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 services to customers.

The conference also heard several times that other benefits to the connected car could include access to email and social media. Perhaps we should probably wait for the autonomous connected car to become a reality before fully embracing this level of multi tasking!

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