Car Connectivity: Time to Accelerate

Connected cars help drivers stay safe with aids such as blind spot warnings and automated emergency support. At the same time, connectivity creates all-new conveniences including in-vehicle WiFi, virtual keys and even in-car payments.

Services such as these are changing how people decide which cars to buy. At the same time, automakers should respond by expanding higher bandwidth connectivity across their lineups.

The time is right, too, as demand for connected services is starting to spike — mobile operators registered more connected cars in 2017 than they did mobile phones — and consumers are more comfortable with longer-term lease or financing options that help keep monthly costs low despite the higher MSRPs of new technology-stuffed cars.

Today’s connectivity can match drivers’ imaginations
It would be hard to blame consumers if they thought real safety and convenience improvements in cars were still a few years off. The industry and media focus on self-driving cars and — to some extent — 5G technologies is skewing the public’s understanding of automotive innovation.

In reality, automakers can already exceed many consumer expectations for vehicle-to-anything (V2X) communications and in-car connectivity with LTE Advanced Pro networking.

For example, LTE connectivity makes navigation systems much more than turn-by-turn instructions. Drivers can use voice commands to ask for directions, their route can be updated for current traffic conditions and they can search and compare gas prices at different fuel stops along the way. As they drive, the mapping systems can send real-time information about road conditions to other cars, whose drivers will be alerted to potential hazards.

Unfortunately, many drivers report that they don’t know how all the technology in their cars works. Automakers need to stress customer education on showroom floors, so buyers understand how to enhance and personalize driving experiences with connected services and drive more efficiently and safely.

Some dealers are hiring digital experts or partnering with tech-savvy student groups to help teach customers about connected car tech and how to use it. This is smart sales strategy and a practice that needs to ramp up to match the pace of carmakers’ other innovations in connectivity and autonomy.

Build trust today to support sales tomorrow
Security education should also be part of the effort to familiarize customers with more intelligent cars. Some consumers still worry that connected cars could be hacked, as in the infamous Jeep experiment and more imaginative stories in pop culture, and others may be concerned with who can see data about the way they use their cars.

Automakers should explain to customers how connected cars protect personal information or other valuable data such as payment information.

The information drivers use to activate connected services is encrypted and can only be accessed with the right cryptographic key. Those keys can’t be copied or otherwise faked, meaning only the driver and service providers the driver authorizes can access personal information, and often even authorized services are limited in what information they see.

This high-grade security protects cars from the cybersecurity risks on consumers’ minds today: takeover or data theft. But drivers also need to trust these security technologies to buy into new ownership models that favor access over exclusive ownership.

Ford, General Motors and Volvo are all experimenting with subscription-style sales through which customers can choose from a fleet of the newest cars with the most advanced technology. Audi has taken the on-demand concept even further, allowing drivers in San Francisco to register online and rent new cars that will be delivered to them and retrieved at the end of their rental.

In each of these shared ownership or shared use models, drivers will need to trust that the data they create while driving a fleet car won’t be accessible to the next driver or susceptible to loss from automakers’ cloud networks. Shared fleets are a precursor to autonomy at scale and passengers will need to trust in ironclad connectivity and data security before they accept self-driving cars.

Building that trust starts today with more consumer exposure to connected cars and more education on the cybersecurity and safety tech in connected cars.

— Kate Migon is Gemalto’s Head of Automotive & Mobility Services Americas, where she leads the company’s New Mobility and Automotive vertical in the Americas division.

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