Second guessing the big trends for the connected car in 2016

Okay, this was a bit of a fool's errand: Everyone in the industry already knows exactly what’s going to happen this year – and they won't tell us if we don't have a non-disclosure agreement. Still, industry leaders were able to discuss some of the big themes for the coming year.

Greg Ross, global director of business development and alliances for GM:“In 2016 and 2017, you'll see a lot of disruptive innovation built around connectivity and software-defined features in vehicles. We'll look back on this time and say, ‘That is when the car business started to change a lot’. This is a fundamental transitional time.”

Brian Droessler, Continental's vice-president of software and connected solutions:“The hype behind the connected car has never been greater; it's really captured the imagination. Consumers are excited about cars again in a whole new way but one challenge we have to solve as an industry is the liability issue. There are also security problems that have been exposed that we need to shore up. This is not something that can be solved with a single technology implementation. We may need to re-architect systems in a way that breaks across the way OEMs are organised today. We can't ignore Apple and Google. They will find a whole new paradigm for the driving experience and vehicle ownership. I think we'll see something disruptive – possibly announced this year.”

Manuela Papadopol, director of global marketing for Elektrobit:“We're seeing a shift in the industry that separates hardware from software development. Traditionally, carmakers assigned infotainment development to a Tier 1, which might do some software development in house or outsource it to a Tier 2. As software is becoming the key differentiator and will be the key component in developing self-driving cars, carmakers have begun working directly with software companies; for example, Ford Sync and Microsoft, or Audi creating the joint venture with Elektrobit. The goal of this is to reduce dependencies, shorten time to market, and increase the footprint that the car maker has in the product or device. Also, software providers are the ones that can test and validate these new, complex software applications.”

Andrew Poliak, global director, business development for QNX Software Systems: “Software will drive the driverless car. Operating systems and higher-level software play a crucial role, as they must reliably and efficiently process massive volumes of data for a diverse range of automated driving functions. Increasingly, this software must be designed to support split-second decision making for automated vehicle braking and steering, engine throttle, and reactions to surrounding traffic. This year, we will definitely see more car companies announcing and launching support for Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and SmartDeviceLink. At the same time, people are waking up with a bit of a hangover and asking, ‘What did we just give away to Apple and Google – companies potentially building cars? How do we claw back some of the pieces we gave up by doing that?’ The answer is to focus on rich user experiences and ways to differentiate around ADAS and autonomous applications. It's a good wake-up call for automakers to ask themselves, ‘What are we when cars are autonomous? Transportation as a service won't require as many people to own vehicles; so, where can we take a leadership role and find places to generate more revenue?’”

Scott Frank vice-president of marketing for Airbiquity: “There will be a continued focus on safety and security. These are huge issues in the category. People are examining the standards that are currently being used in this industry and outside it, and looking for applicability. There are a lot of good standards out there for data security. The debate is about whether we shouldn’t we just apply those standards that are already out there and working quite well in banking and other crucial sectors? That's the place to start, and then evolve from there. At the same time, I don't see the automotive market as being a ripe place for the hacking community at this point in time. Not that it won't happen but, from the professional hacker perspective, there are much richer targets than automotive at this point in time. But these systems are under scrutiny now and that's a great catalyst for closing holes and hardening the systems. The industry will go through that process and things will consistently get better and more airtight going forward.”

The New Year has already created some surprises, as well as may questions still to be answered. Stay tuned as we report on the latest changes throughout the year. 

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