Connected Car in the Connected World

In 2013 Thilo Koslowski, Gartner vice president and automotive analyst, coined a new phrase to look out for within the Internet of Things – the ‘Internet of Cars’.

The connected car’s ability to talk not just to ‘things’ such as people and enterprises, but also to communicate with other cars on the road, indicates just what an elevated and sophisticated proposition the connected car can be within the Internet of Things.  Since then consumers are making greater demands on automakers to deliver new technology in the car.

 

Despite impressive growth predictions for the Internet of Things, Gartner forecasts a 35.2% increase from 2013 to 2020 with expected spending of $263 billion in 2020 on IoT services, tapping into this growth is no walk in the park for automakers.

Ambitions for the connected car are high. There’s presidential support from the Obama administration and a Telefónica report predicts that 90% of cars will have built-in connectivity by 2020 compared with today’s 10%.

 

Heightened consumer interest is noticeable as organizers prepare for January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Gary Shapiro, Consumer Electronics Association CEO, tells TU, “From connected car technology to autonomous driving innovations, consumers view in-vehicle technology as an important factor when making purchasing decisions.” 

When it comes to the connected car, OEMs face a daunting challenge of keeping up with the pace of innovations in consumer electronics and helping obviate driver distraction, which is no easy feat.

 

After all automaker’s must consider consumer desire for a seamless driving experience with enhanced infotainment, safety diagnostics, smart phone equivalent connectivity, protected data, fuel efficiency and resistance to paying for yet another subscription. And OEMs must weigh these consumer desires and demands with their own abilities to provide all this and more in a timely fashion, while taking into account infrastructure and debating a built-in versus tethered approach.

 

So how are automakers rising to the challenge?

January’s CES 2015 is set to be one of the largest and most focused meeting points for more than 500 automotive executives discussing these challenges and opportunities for the connected car.

A leading theme for the conference will pivot around the idea that new mobility concepts, faster connectivity and autonomous technology are propelling automakers’ strategy and vision for future products.

 

At the moment, these concepts are often discussed separately from each other but there is a prevailing sense of feeling that they need to be considered as one. Volvo Cars and American Honda share their perspectives with TU about this new approach.

Klas Bendrik, group chief information officer and vice president of Volvo Car Corporation believes in the ‘all in’ approach for new mobility concepts, faster connectivity and autonomous technology. 

 

“This is our strong belief. This is why we have set-up an integrated approach with all three areas for Volvo’s ‘Drive Me’ pilot. The ‘Drive Me – Self Driving Cars for Sustainable Mobility’ is the world’s first large-scale autonomous driving pilot using self-driving Volvo cars on public roads, in everyday driving conditions.”

 

The pilot commenced in December 2013 and aims by 2017 to build-up a total fleet of 100 self-driving Volvo cars.

Cars in the pilot will incorporate sensors that keep track of the car and the surrounding environment plus connectivity to a Volvo cloud to get map data and other information from a traffic control centre.

 

Bendrik explains why this ‘all in’ approach has been adopted for the pilot, “Approaching ‘Drive Me’ in this unique way – with an integrated, unified vision of mobility concepts, connectivity and autonomous technology – enables us to offer a pilot on public roads with a unique cooperation between Volvo Cars, the authorities, the industry and the academic community”.

 

‘Drive Me’ test cars are already on the roads of Sweden’s city of Gothenburg generating interesting learning for Volvo.

“The pilot has provided confirmation that the implementation of autonomous cars will not be possible without a close cooperation between the car maker and the relevant key-stakeholders: road authorities, city authorities, academia and other industries like technology providers and infrastructure,” say Volvo’s Bendrik, adding, “We’ve already learned a lot from the real-life collaboration between these different parties”.

 

According to the Volvo exec, the automaker plans to use the autonomous technology is in the pilot to “improve traffic safety, improve fuel efficiency by up to 20% and reduce congestion and infrastructure costs”.

The challenge facing Volvo now is seamlessly integrating this technology in different traffic situations, city environment and road conditions and then linking this to the Volvo customers’ needs and expectations.

Charles Koch, American Honda’s new business development manager tells TU that considering new mobility concepts, faster connectivity and autonomous technology as one is a “Good goal, but easier said than done”.

 

For American Honda, reaching that goal first means delivering a number of interim solutions, so for now the approach will continue to come in three separate parts. Koch explains, “We still need to deliver commercial benefits that are associated with each one of them and you can still deliver those without them all having to be together. Eventually they will all be together”.

Integration and partnerships are next on Honda’s connected car mission.

The automaker is currently working in partnership with Apple and Google for integration into future vehicles and an embedded Android operating system will be coming to Honda head units in the near future. Koch says the “timing is still to be determined – but it’s coming”.

 

For American Honda, the major hurdles delaying this new ‘all together’ approach include infrastructure and technology. Getting operating systems to work together- especially given all the existing electronics in a car is the chief problem for the automaker.

The Honda executive explains, “A lot of the technology that we’re trying to break in we’ve had for some time but the problem is there are so many differentflavorsof electronics now that trying to sew them together is proving to be very, very difficult”. As far as the infrastructure challenges go, Koch says, “We don’t quite have the infrastructure built-out for the evolutionary technologies just yet – the roads, the political considerations that govern them and legislation- it’s all going to take some time”.

When the time comes however, Koch says American Honda has a very clear idea of what its ultimate connected car will include: “It’s going to have a lot of optional features associated with it because the driving mindset varies so much – no two drivers want the same exact thing – but everyone wants a car that does what they want it to do.”

 

For the latest telematics trends, check out Consumer Telematics Show 2015 on January 5 in Las Vegas, Connected Fleets Europe 2015 on March 10-11 in Amsterdam, Telematics India and South Asia 2015 on April 13-14 in India, Insurance Telematics Europe 2015 on April 14-15 in London, Insurance Telematics Canada 2015 on April 23-24 in Toronto, Telematics Berlin 2015 on May 11-12 in Berlin, and TU-Automotive @ Detroit 2015 on June 3-4 in Novi, MI.


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