How customer experience is driving the connected car

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According to a 2014 Harris Poll AutoTECHCASTSM study, 42% of car owners of models purchased in 2009 or more recently are aware of connected cars, although levels of familiarity vary. Their previously “dumb” cars are speedily joining the technology dash, adding post-market devices and wireless connectivity. Cars are becoming the personal assistant on four wheels, making dinner plans, taking verbal replies to emails and Facebook posts, and suggesting sporadic re-routes to the driver’s commute.

Privacy concerns

The futuristic road ahead, however, will not always be a smooth one: the Harris poll also suggests that 65% of car owners have privacy concerns related to connectivity.IT professional Carlos Haagworked for several years in Detroit as a systems administrator at the now-defunct Electrical Design & Control factory. He shares consumer security concerns on Program Logic Controller (PLC) units, particularly in regard to those used on factory floors.

“The auto industry has always been a curiosity,” Haag said. “I work in IT, and have to be security conscious. I have always worked in automotive-related fields, including the controls industry. I was wondering 10 years ago when the PLCs that control all the machines and safeties would get hacked. And a few years ago, it started to come out. Security was virtually ignored in the shops.”

Haag theorises that that the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems typical of automobile manufacturers were of benefit in the past but may not be sufficient security in the new era of connected cars.

“SCADA security is often discussed in the context of infrastructure such as power companies, but it is the same hardware that the automakers use,” Haag said. “Automakers always kept their shop networks isolated, and that was the only security they had. These days, with computers being so small and easy to smuggle in, that approach may not be the best idea.”

The automotive industry is increasingly recognising and addressing the consumers’ and Haag’s concerns and, as a case in point, Ford launched its newest innovation, SYNC 3, last December. The system boasts a cabinet of connected features including a conversational voice recognition and over-the-air software updates using Wi-Fi. Ford spokesperson Whitney Delano Pineda said the new system was borne of consumer interests and apprehensions.

“SYNC 3 was designed and developed using extensive feedback from nearly 22,000 customer comments and suggestions,” Pineda explained. “The result is a new, innovative way for drivers to stay connected behind the wheel. The all-new SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system debuts this summer in North America on the 2016 Ford Escape and Fiesta.”

In a press release, Ford emphasised its paced innovations. “We considered all the modern smartphones and mobile operating systems and created something familiar but unique,” said Parrish Hanna, Ford global director of Human Machine Interface.

The system will make telephone contacts accessible via a simple swipe of the finger to scroll through the alphabet. With “One Box Search,” SYNC 3 users can view sites of interests or enter addresses similar to the way they use an Internet search engine.

“Simplicity has value,” said Hanna. “Reducing the number of things on-screen also makes control easier and is designed to limit the number of times a driver has to glance at the screen.”

What’s driving behaviour

The Ford company has particularly chasing interests of younger drivers. Ford solicited marketing company Penn Schoen Berland to conduct a poll of 1,000 US Generation Z consumers, those aged 16 to 22, and Generation Y, between 23 and 34 years old. Among other findings, the survey determined that 88% of younger Americans fear other motor operators driving dangerously. This data will drive the company’s safety-related connectivity future programmes, with applications that will predict lane changes and other warnings regarding fellow motorists.

Ford is not the sole driver on the connected road. Hyundai is motivated to offer solutions for its consumers. Miles Johnson, manager for the manufacturer’s Connected Care Publicity programme, shares the consumers’ enthusiasm. Its Blue Link products primarily keep it simple.

“Blue Link will be part of the connected future,” Johnson said. “We are addressing concerns while offering common-sense innovation. For example, in the summer a parent of a toddler doesn’t want to put that child in a 100-degree car. Connectivity allows the parent to turn on the air conditioner from inside the house.”

Consumer testimonials offered on the company’s website share Johnson’s enthusiasm. Sonata owner Mary Lou M. enthusiastically endorsed the summer climate control system.

“That’s the best thing since iced tea,” she said.

Don't miss Active Safety: ADAS to Autonomous this October 12-13.


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