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What Connectivity Means For Automotive Consumers

What Connectivity Means For Automotive Consumers

 

Over the last decade, technology has helped to bring us closer together and this connectivity has transformed the way we live. Not only are we able to chat and video call with friends and family around the world, but we are also able to engage with the environment that we live in ways that were previously a figment of the imagination; from voice commanded assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa to being able to control our lighting and heating from our smartphones with the likes of Phillips’ Hue and Google’s Nest.

This connectivity is also finding its way into the automotive world. From the early days of Bluetooth to more modern Graphical User Interface (GUI) units and strategically placed cameras, connectivity has helped to ensure that the driving experience has become smoother, easier and safer. In this article we’ll look at the current connectivity state of play and look to the future to explore roadmapped innovation.

 

How does the current connectivity landscape look?

 

The automobiles we drive on a daily basis are already packed full of cutting-edge technology. So much so, that the computing power of the average vehicle is equivalent to twenty personal computers, containing nearly 100 million lines of programming code. 

So far, the connectivity of our vehicles has primarily been based around “info-tainment” and enhanced driver experience. From the early days of Bluetooth and hands free use to the more modern vehicles that feature internet connectivity, which allows us to instantly connect our phones, devices and favourite apps such as Spotify; we have never been more connected. In recent years, GUI units have seen the traditional speedometer and rev counter instrument panels become obsolete as new digital and in-depth digital screens ensure that the cars we are driving today are vastly different to those that were being produced just a decade ago. 

This increased level of connectivity is swiftly becoming the norm for drivers around the world and this year it is estimated that there will be 61 million vehicles that have some form of data connectivity, either by the vehicle connecting directly to the driver’s mobile device or from a direct connection within the vehicle itself.

This level of connectivity is opening up a whole new world for consumers, from recommending nearby coffee shops or garages to helping to record and track driving data to help with lower insurance costs. Alongside visual benefits to the driver, this connectivity is also helping to improve safety features and give manufacturers more information about how their vehicles are used; paving the way for the potential of automated driving in the not too distant future.

 

So what does the future have in store?

As technology continues to advance, vehicle connectivity will move away from providing infotainment to the driver and more towards providing a fully automated experience. Experts list four phases of car connectivity. We’ve already gone through the first 2:  the initial stage being the introduction of Bluetooth technology and the second stage being the infotainment section with consumers able to use apps in their vehicle. 

As we move into a new decade, car manufacturers are beginning to enter phase three, which focuses on improving the software and data management of the vehicle. One of the biggest additions expected in the coming few years is a wider roll out of the Over-The-Air (OTA) service. Much like your smartphone or games console is able to update when connected to the internet, OTA will offer consumers the ability to update their vehicle software directly from the comfort of their own property. Currently, drivers are required to visit a dedicated dealership to do this, increasing cost and decreasing convenience for themselves with the manufacturers also paying for it.

According to respected research firm IHS, as OTA becomes more widespread it is expected to see manufacturers enjoy savings from software recalls rise to an incredible $35 billion by 2020. This will likely make car technology innovation cheaper for consumers as a proportion of savings will be passed on. But that’s not all, it is also a necessity for laying the foundations of phase four.

Phase four is arguably one of the most exciting in the automotive world, autonomous vehicles. There can be no questioning what a huge change this will bring to not just the automotive industry but the world as a whole. However before consumers are able to enjoy the benefits, these vehicles need to be fully connected with the environment around them. 

In order to successfully introduce autonomous vehicles, manufacturers will need to ensure that their cars are not only connecting with every other vehicle on the road (autonomous or manual) but also pedestrians, buildings, traffic signals and road signs. This is otherwise known as V2X, or Vehicle-to-Everything communication and requires hundreds of sensors working together and covering a full 360 degree circle around the vehicle, registering exactly what is around the vehicle. 

In order for this to work, it is not just going to require increased technology and cloud-based systems from vehicle manufacturers but the adoption of entire infrastructure by councils and city planners across the globe. In 2017, the National Association of City Transportation Officials in America unveiled its first guide to autonomous vehicles and as the vision of driverless vehicles becomes reality, it is going to require a major overhaul of not only the roads but the laws currently governing automobiles and city planning. 

 

An exciting future 

If you look back just 15 years, the transformation of the automobile has been incredible. Analogue radios and large, clunky Sat Nav systems have disappeared and drivers are able to enjoy a far more connected experience. 

Over the next decade, this level of connectivity has the potential to completely revolutionise the automotive industry and thus the driving experience. Our cars are now more connected to the world outside than ever before and that is only going to grow, meaning there has never been a more exciting time for automotive consumers.  We at Haig Barrett look forward to seeing these innovations enter the automotive mass market and revolutionise the driving experience.