With smartphones becoming an indispensable part of our lives, carmakers are racing to keep up with consumers’ expectations by building software innovations into their products.
The invention of the Internet and the technological marvel that is the smartphone have revolutionised the way we communicate and live. The ease and convenience of being connected, via the Internet, to friends, family members and others have definitely had an impact on consumers’ expectations of goods and services. And that is not lost on carmakers — they understand that today’s drivers demand something more than just a good drive or a bigger boot.
These days, the focus is on how to stay connected while behind the wheel of their car. The irony is that our cars were once our sanctuary, insulating us from the rest of the world. The reverse is now true, with drivers demanding that cars include a whole host of experiences and features that connectivity brings. In other words, they want a smartphone on wheels.
The new generation of car owners cannot stay unplugged for longer than necessary; being connected is like air or water to them, all of which are absolutely necessary for their existence!
Considering the number of hours drivers spend in their cars, carmakers are seeing opportunities to offer new features and services to these tech-dependent consumers. They are prepared to roll out new models that boast the latest mobile technologies to woo buyers. Think smart navigation features integrated with location-based services that incorporate not only real-time traffic and fuel updates, but also remind you of your next meeting and the best way to that destination — but not before recommending the best restaurants to try along the route! With the introduction of telematics apps, drivers can now start their cars from their smartphones. Apple’s digital car key app, currently available on select BMW models, replaces the key fob with the iPhone so owners can not only remotely start or unlock their cars, but can also share their key via the app as well as restrict certain features, such as the speed limit or even the volume of the stereo!
It is interesting to note that car companies are evolving to increasingly resemble software companies in their outlook. Major players like Volvo, Toyota and General Motors are investing in data scientists and AI engineers, talent usually sought after by tech companies, as they ramp up development of smart and autonomous vehicles. The next generation of smart cars will shift away from hardware-centric platforms to more software-defined ones. At the forefront will be vehicle-to-cloud connectivity to meet the increasing demand for high-speed and robust Wi-Fi connectivity to the cloud to deal with the huge amount of data generated by these smart cars.
The in-car experience is becoming the key differentiator for carmakers. However, they know that they not only face challenges to keep up with the smartphone’s ability to satisfy consumer demand with respect to usability and interaction, they also have the difficult task of juggling safety considerations for the driver, and making sure these integrated features and apps do not distract the user from driving the car in a safe manner.