The Auto Industry Wants To Turn The Car Into A Personal Assistant …

Henry Ford supposedly once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The quote has long sparked a debate on whether it is better to innovate based on customer feedback or to build the future based on the unique vision of the inventor.

If you asked people what they want from their cars 20 years ago, they would have said eco-friendly, faster and more efficient vehicles. Few would have said, “I want my car to drive itself.”

And yet, that is the future that is coming.

The push to make the car one more piece in the connected puzzle is what the industry needs. Around 75% of cars on the road in 2020 will have Internet-connected systems, which will turn the car into a connected tool that interacts with its surrounding environment.

People are still buying cars but their expectations of what the car should be have changed to align with the mobile devices that they use every day. The consensus is that in a few years time the integration of apps into an infotainment system will be ubiquitous, which will make the digital experience for consumers even more important.

The connected car market is expected to be worth around $1 trillion over the next 10 years, a recent report by KPMG said. Cars will need their own ecosystem to balance what consumers want and what manufacturers can offer. Integration will require automakers to ensure that not only collected vehicle data is secure but also that “car hacking” does not become a problem.

In to the  2017 Global Automotive Executive Survey, KPMG said:

When the main source of revenue in the automotive industry shifts away from the car itself, current value drivers have to be reevaluated or respectively new value drivers will have to be identified and integrated into a new business strategy. Data is the foundation of digitalization and therefore the automotive industry must see it as a core element. A key challenge will be to make the business model profitable.

A Personal Assistant On Four Wheels

A report by global manufacturer Bosch said that by 2025 the “connected car effect” would reduce accidents, decrease fuel consumption and—ultimately—reduce stress. For example, connected parking functions could cumulatively save almost 70 million driving hours in the United States, China and Germany, said Bosch.

Highly automated assisted driving technology will give people more time to concentrate on other things while on the road—Bosch estimates that as much as 80% of “drive time” could be dedicated to reading, work-related tasks or even watching TV. According to Bosch, improving the mobility experience turns the car into a personal assistant on four wheels.

See also: Road Signs Are As Important To The Future Of Driverless Cars As Artificial Intelligence

The SmartDeviceLink project is a good example of how a driving experience can be enhanced.

The open-source software was developed by Ford as a means to connect in-vehicle infotainment systems with smartphone apps without leveraging Apple’s CarPlay or Android Auto. A number of major car manufacturers have already agreed to use the software in their own vehicles with an overall aim of delivering digital experiences that match what people get from existing devices.

On a federal level, the U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed that vehicle-to-vehicle communication should be mandatory in all new cars by 2020, which will allow vehicles to communicate with each other. Advanced vehicle technologies are the key to not only saving lives but will also improve the roadway infrastructure itself.

“We are carrying the ball as far as we can to realize the potential of transportation technology to save lives,” said former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in December 2016. “This long promised V2V rule is the next step in that progression.  Once deployed, V2V will provide 360-degree situational awareness on the road and will help us enhance vehicle safety.”

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Expanding Voice Into The Vehicular Experience

A potential integration of voice-activated assistants into a vehicle is another aspect of the digital experience that carmakers will need to consider.

Earlier this year, Ford announced that its 2017 model range will include Amazon’s Alexa as a standard feature. The first phase of this integration is the introduction of a Ford-developed Alexa skill that performs basic functions such as start the car, lock doors and get a vehicle mileage summary.

The next phase—due to start in the spring—will allow drivers to tap a voice recognition button on the steering wheel and ask Alexa to perform tasks such as navigation or search. The integration with Alexa will enable people to command smart home devices or even order Starbucks without taking their hands off the wheel.

On a panel at the recent Automotive-hosted Consumer Telematics Show in Las Vegas, Volvo’s director of connected products David Holecek summed up what the industry needs to do to make the digital experience a reality in the car.

“It’s not about bringing the internet into the car; it’s about bringing the car into the internet,” Holecek said, according to Automotive. “What are the things a connected car can do for you while you’re driving? What can a connected car do for you when you’re not actually in the car? The third wave is what can the connected car do for other drivers and for society at large?”

Did you know? Applause can test digital aspects of connected cars with its global network of 250,000 testers. See what Applause can do for the automative industry here.

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