How Indoor Maps Could Influence The Connected Car Consumer Experience

April 20, 2016  |  By John Jasper  |       

indoor-maps-connected-car-experience.jpgIt seems like everyone these days is pretty heavily focused on how to make vehicle navigation systems better for the modern-day consumer. Anyone who's used the technology before to reach a destination knows that these improvements are long overdue and quite necessary.

Most vehicle navigation systems don’t have the option of displaying indoor maps. That might sound odd because nobody is driving inside buildings, but they are driving to these locations on an everyday basis.

When you really think about it, the lack of indoor maps constitutes a big gap for current vehicle navigation systems. Indoor maps can be essential to many journeys, since they always begin and end outside of the vehicle. They have the opportunity to change the entire experience for consumers, influencing their driving habits and changing the way we commute day-to-day.

The Limits

Unfortunately, people view car navigation systems as a limited technology in a number of ways. They can input a destination by either typing it in, using voice recognition or even sending it from another device like a smartphone, but the end result is still missing some key links.

The directions that are provided only show the part of a trip that takes place in the car. If a person needs to reach the car first (i.e walk to a parking garage or parking lot) or go somewhere significant using another form of transportation after leaving the vehicle, another set of directions must come from another source to reach your vehicle (or your destination once you park or valet).

To be fair, this mentality isn't limited to just car navigation systems. If you perform a Google Maps search for a destination like a store inside a mall, the directions that are generated show how to reach the mall. Once you arrive there, no matter how big it is, you must then figure out the correct and best route to the actual store inside.

This creates a limit to the usefulness of vehicle navigation systems, but it doesn't have to be this way for long.

Cracking the Code

When it comes to end-to-end journey management, the automotive industry has simply not cracked the code. Focusing on doing just that would net huge gains. The result would be a standout service that appeals to everyday people. After all, we all arrive at places in our car and at least some of the time need extra directions.

The navigation system needs to do more than just its current duties. These types of features could include:

  • Travel to Vehicle: For many, the journey starts outside the car and sometimes far away from it. Providing the best pathway to reach the vehicle will help expedite trips.

  • Driving to Address: This is currently covered by your average navigation system, but alone it isn't enough. Is your system taking into consideration construction up ahead or traffic jams, in turn slowing down your commute?

  • Parking: Ford, BMW and other OEMs have begun addressing this issue by teaming up with various parking apps. In crowded urban areas, drivers need all the help they can get finding parking spots that are available, instead of spending time hunting for them and adding to their drive time. Allowing drivers to pay for a spot in advance, reserving it so the spot isn't gone when they arrive is a huge plus is a huge step in the right direction.

  • Travel to Desired Location: People often must continue traveling after parking their car. It's like going by train to a station, then needing to reach a restaurant on the other side of town. Knowing where you're going once and have that within one trip can help save valuable time.

An End-to-End Experience

Key players in the automotive industry need to stop thinking of navigation as something that starts once a person gets in the car. In reality it's an end-to-end experience.

Sure, it can start in the car if it's sitting right by a driver's home, but it might start with the driver several blocks from the vehicle. Then there's the issue of journeying from a parking spot to the true end destination. OEMs and others in the industry must think that the experience really ends with getting the consumers to their final destination.

Smartphones Are Key

An obvious question comes up once someone starts talking about using vehicle navigation systems for indoor mapping: How would that work effectively?

It's a fair question and is creating a real obstacle in many people's minds. What they have yet to do successfully is get it to work in accordance with our smartphones.

Wirelessly connecting cars and smartphones certainly isn't a novel concept these days. We can do it all the time, whether it's through Bluetooth, WiFi or 4G. It's possible to look up a location using a smartphone, then send it to a vehicle's head unit, eliminating the need to look up the directions through the infotainment system, saving time and headaches.

Smartphone Integration

Integrating smartphones into the driving experience is a hot field right now. While pairing the smartphone with the head unit can add value, it shouldn't stop there.

Technologies such as Abalta's WebLink allow OEMs to create a truly branded and customized experience. This can include drivers using the navigation app they prefer, or utilize popular apps pertinent to a region. Since the technology works with any mobile device, it's incredibly flexible.

When drivers get out of a vehicle after parking, the one thing they take along is a smartphone. This is the perfect way to take that navigation info along for the final leg of the journey. A user would just need to reference their device while walking through a building, riding public transit or however else they choose to reach wherever they're headed.

Several advantages can be realized with such a solution:

  • Start Navigation From Anywhere: Instead of feeling like the navigation system in their car can only be used once they're inside the vehicle, users could literally start navigating to a location no matter where they are.

  • One Plan: Users would be able to make one travel plan. This saves them from having two or three sets of directions for different legs of the same journey.

  • Flexibility On The Fly: Delays and getting rerouted can happen. If a person was planning to take a train to reach their car, but instead has to ride on a bus or catch a taxi, they can alter their route on the fly.

  • Service Options: Instead of being forced to use a navigation service based on the type of vehicle they drive, users can continue using whatever app is on their phone. This would give them a greater incentive to connect the smartphone to the vehicle, instead of just using their device while driving.

The Movement Is Growing

A number of companies are already pushing into the indoor navigation space and the tools they are working on are helping to make this experience a reality.

Here are a few companies to keep in mind:

  • HERE: A giant in the auto industry, HERE has actually been working to increase its indoor maps coverage, instead of pulling out of the space. Already, it has maps of tens of thousands of buildings all over the world. Through its HERE Mobile SDK, developers can use 3D venue maps within their Android or iOS apps. Many third parties have started taking advantage of this service, which already includes thousands of locations.

  • Garmin: Working off the innovations being pioneered by HERE, Garmin is helping drivers find the nearest parking spot for their destination, based on where inside a building consumers are going.

  • Bing Maps: Windows phone users can automatically get directions to an exact destination inside a venue. Driving directions can be given audibly, meaning drivers keep their eyes on the road and not on the screen.
What kinds of other solutions can be made possible by offering indoor maps to drivers?

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Topics: Connected Car - Technology

John Jasper

John is the President and COO of Abalta Technologies. Abalta Technologies, Inc. is an emerging leader in the connected car landscape. Abalta has developed an innovative platform to enable car companies, automotive electronic firms and tier 1 suppliers to bridge the gap between the smartphone and the car’s infotainment system.

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