How Connected Car Apps Have Changed The Way We Drive

December 23, 2015  |  By Michael O'Shea  |       

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Connected car technology has been changing the way we drive, although if you ask them, most consumers won’t be able to tell you how. Drivers are coming to expect more from features from their cars, and the latest connected car apps are being accepted as the part of the driving experience.

People spend an average of 6.5 hours in their cars each week. In a recent report from BI Intelligence (BI), car safety is the biggest connected car category and should be worth $44 billion this year, growing to $123 billion by 2020 when autonomous cars should hit the market. And entertainment is expected to reach $13 billion in revenue by 2020. In fact, the overall global connected car market is expected to reach $132 billion in sales by 2019. Surprisingly, 80 percent of consumers have no clear idea of what connected cars are, although about half of those surveyed by BI use connected car features regularly and show a high degree of customer satisfaction.

So how are connected car apps changing the way we drive? Here are a number of ways:

Safety

Improving driver safety is always a top concern and today’s connected cars have moved well beyond seatbelts and air bags. Internal driver assistance features tell drivers more about their surroundings with collision detectors, speed detection, crash prevention technology, and merging assistance.

Entertainment

In-car entertainment is one of the highest profile connected car applications. Consumers are now using smartphones and handheld devices to bring their own entertainment on board. Smartphones connect directly to the with the car’s IVI unit via Bluetooth, USB, or Wi-Fi to play recorded or stream music or podcasts, As more smartphone entertainment apps come to market, developers will make those apps compatible for IVI access. For example, drivers will be able to access web sites and social media using voice commands.

Communications

Hands-free telecommunications has become commonplace. However, communications won’t stop there. New apps will make it possible to send and receive text messages using voice commands. Drivers will even have access to email using voice-activated commands that interface to the smartphone.

Navigation

Mapping and navigation are probably the most popular connected car applications. Drivers have been using the maps on their smartphones and tablets to aid in navigation for some time. Now the IVI system can be used to display the smartphone navigation system. The smartphone cellular connection has the bandwidth and connectivity speed to deliver real-time mapping and the IVI interface displays the map on the dashboard.

One of the greatest advantages to come from two-way communications for navigation is real-time traffic reporting. Drivers can route to their destination but also can designate the route that takes the least amount of travel time based on traffic conditions. Using real-time updates, the system can even alert drivers of new choke points or obstacles and recommend alternative routes on the fly.

Automotive Performance

Connected car apps also are helping drivers improve maintenance and extend the life of their vehicles. We have come a long way from the old oil pressure gauge. Embedded control units alert drivers about tire pressure and wear, brake wear, transmission performance, and just about every aspect of car operations. This telematics data is not only displayed on the IVI to alert car owners that it’s time for maintenance, but it can be transmitted to the OEM and the dealership to facilitate service.

Over the air (OTA) is reducing the number of visits to the shop. Today’s car has become a rolling computer network and many operational problems can be solved with a software update to improve systems performance. Before the evolution of connected car technology, cars had to be physically connected for a systems update, which meant a visit to the shop. With OTA software transfers, systems can be updated automatically, reducing the time and cost of service. Even car recalls are now being managed with OTA technology saving OEMs billions in recall costs.

Who Pays for Connectivity?

While new connected car apps continue to be a boon to drivers, OEMs are struggling to find the best way to support connected car apps. Connectivity is not free, and while some luxury carmakers are including the cost of connectivity with the initial purchase price or give customers a connectivity add-on package, most consumers aren’t willing to pay for yet another wireless service. Drivers want the convenience of new connected car apps, but not enough to commit to new data charges.

OEMs are going to prioritize the types of connectivity they will include with the price of the new connected cars. The OEM will likely support new safety and service apps deemed essential to operations, while “nice-to-have” services will be delivered using other means such as via smartphone. The smartphone is going to continue to be an essential part of the connected car infrastructure for some time as carmakers offload non-critical services to the smartphone. Smartphones not only give consumers more control but they also allow OEMs to share the cost of connectivity with customers without having to charge for additional wireless services.

How have you seen connected car apps changed the way consumers or the way you drive?

Topics: Connected Car - Apps

Michael O'Shea

Michael O’Shea is the Founder and CEO of Abalta Technologies. He is responsible for all aspects of executive management of Abalta and a direct participant in many client engagements, particularly in management advisory projects.

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