India’s Young Drivers Plug into Connected Cars

The automotive industry in India is on the edge of evolution with a high level of new innovations.

Connected car technologies such as heads-up displays, smart infotainment and telematics systems are becoming an integral part of high-end automobiles. Gradually, affordable car brands have also been leading the way to familiarize connected car tech in India.

According to a Deloitte report: “There’s a big shift going to take place in the automotive industry. Connected car, the new buzz word in the automotive industry, is set to become a common phenomenon in the Indian market with rapid adoption of electric vehicles.”

Connectivity driving industry

“Until not so long ago, vehicle connectivity in the Indian market wasn’t considered something that would bring people to car showrooms but things have been changing very quickly now,” said Vivek Beriwal, manager research and analysis at IHS Markit. He suggested the car connectivity space in India was skewed in favor of smartphone-driven connectivity until 2018 but was invigorated in mid-2019 with the launch of three game-changing vehicles: the MG Hector, the Kia Seltos, and the Hyundai Venue. All three fitted with e-SIMs and offering telematics services like remote vehicle controls, emergency call, breakdown call, driving behavior analysis, etc. In the MG Hector, the market even got its first vehicle with over-the-air software update capability.

Anuj Agarwal, director, Aeromobix Systems, spoke of “how connected vehicles primarily utilize V2I, V2V and V2X communication. In-order to exploit the full potential of connected vehicle technology the infrastructure needs to be facilitated for V2I readiness”. He shows his concerns about the current scenario of connected cars in Indian context and feels: “Features like forthcoming traffic signals, road sign alerts, congestion alerts, vehicle tracking and self-car parking are features that require infrastructure readiness and internationally standardized communication protocols which is nearly non-existent in India.”

Suraj Ghosh, principal analyst, at IHS Automotive, said: “Indian market is a value-seeking market, new entrants like MG Motors and Kia have adopted high connectivity features as standard; and they’re being rewarded with a very positive response to their new launches.” MG has even badged its first launch in India, the Hector, as the ‘Internet Car’, propositioned as a major differentiating point in its segment. Cloud-connectivity, remote diagnostics, continuous exchange of data, remote vehicle control, geo-fencing, OTT updates are usually listed as the advantages of it.

Mohit Bangale, former senior software engineer at Continental automotive components, India, said: “India is a diverse country and Indian drivers are increasingly looking for connectivity and improved in-vehicle user experiences in their cars.” He explained that driving on the roads demands high concentration owing to unpredictable traffic and other scenarios. Connected car technology like vehicle security alarms can prevent the theft of valuables from the locked car. Changing the temperature, dialing/receiving the call or automatic reply is possible while driving with voice assisted features. Therefore, the price sensitive Indian market is becoming mature, infrastructure is developing and people are becoming aware of the technology. Pioneering connected vehicles like MG Hector, Kia Seltos and Hyundai Venue are being sold in impressive numbers.

Autonomous vehicle readiness

Talking about the autonomous vehicle readiness in Indian context, Beriwal feels that: “The Indian market has been showing promising signs in terms of feature desirability and acceptability, and most importantly, consumers’ willingness to pay. As per the 2019 IHS Markit Consumer Survey on connected cars, India ranked highest in terms of number of respondents willing to pay for telematics renewal, staying ahead of the US, the UK, Germany, Japan, China, South Korea and Brazil.”

Talking about the penetration of connected cars in Indian market, Ghosh added: “With the already growing internet usage in India, cars could become the next thing to be hooked to our telecom infra. Also, there is a huge potential for partnerships or collaborations between the automakers and telecom companies in future, as the monetizing aspect comes to the fore.” Though affordability and value-consciousness are major trend-defining factors in India, connected car technologies are expected to find its own space.

According to Agarwal: “Since there is no visibility on deployment of autonomous vehicles in India and government regulations currently do not permit them, so V2V communication is of minimal utility on Indian roads. Only V2X connected features like satellite navigation, EV battery status monitoring, remote engine start, climate control, concierge services, infotainment, preventive and predictive maintenance push message alerts can currently be of use to Indian customers looking for connected features. Other technological advantages such as driver monitoring, driver fatigue, emergency medical assistance and automatic police notification in case of an accident are some of the important and key features that can be readily exploited in current Indian conditions.”

Along similar lines, Bangale thinks: “There is negligible penetration of the connected cars technology in the Indian household. It’s a highly price conscious market but basic stuff like reverse parking camera, touchscreen- based infotainment system, airbags are becoming ‘must have features’ since a couple of years.” He suggests the urban youth are going to be the early adopters of connected car technology. Then the market will get flooded with cheap aftermarket products. Once the common customer becomes aware about the usability, the demand for connected car technology will increase.

Data privacy

Ghosh discusses data privacy, another crucial aspect of connected cars in Indian context: “As customer preferences evolve with the advent of new technologies, remaining connected with all your ‘stuff’ and the ability to do ‘stuff’ on-the-go is not only defining but differentiating the new-age vehicles.” There is a certain degree of concern regarding data privacy which needs to be addressed as a big amount of private data also gets collected over time and the data-sharing policies in India are not well-defined yet.

Bangale thinks that: “Enhanced security protocols and India specific features are need of the time to capture this huge, young market.” Willingness towards adoption of the new tech is also a big hurdle. majority of the people still prefer asking directions to a passer-by rather than checking the navigation system. According to Beriwal: “Another upside is the fact that car buyers in India are getting younger and changing cars more frequently, gleefully linking their smartphones with integration platforms like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.”. Going forward, the vehicle connectivity market is likely to go up as technology became the buzzword for differentiation for both the automaker and the consumer, more so as 5G networks come knocking at our doors with new service possibilities encompassing V2X technologies.

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