TU Detroit—Day Two Wrap

TU Detroit—Day Two Wrap

Nearly 90-million vehicles trundled off automaker floors onto dealer lots last year. About 14 million of those (or roughly 15 percent) offered some infotainment, with basic bluetooth or navigation being the most common connected features. No matter the industry buzz around telematics, 15 percent does not a revolution make.

And yet on day two of the Telematcs Detroit conference, one couldn’t help but detect a whiff of inevitability around the solutions on display. Having spent the majority of day one in presentations, I started out the morning of day two in the front seat of a Jeep loaded with the latest HTML5 infotainment system. The system boasted all the features one would expect of a connected car: maps, turn-by-turn directions, POIs, internet radio, a system that could recognize voice and answer whatever questions the driver posed of it. Where’s the nearest Starbucks? I want pizza. How far is it to the airport? et cetera.

But what impressed me most about the system was the degree of personalization it enabled. With a few clicks of a button, the driver could decide what color he or she wanted the screens on the dashboard, what size font those screens should display, what type of music to listen to. With a few more clicks of a button, he or she could link all of those preferences to an in-car avatar; the idea being that person X has one in-car identity, person Y another, person Z yet another, and each of those people can embed those identities into the same car and return to them easily and repeatedly with a simple click of his or her avatar. Pretty cool stuff.

The Jeep system belonged to QNX, but it became clear over the course of the day that many telematics companies are busy on the personalization front. As Leo McCloskey, vice president of marketing for Airbiquity, pointed out in his morning keynote address, personalization is largely what is driving digital innovation these days, and that personalization has already begun to work its way into in-car offerings. He believes that “infinitely hyper-personalized” cars will soon be a reality and pointed out that the challenge is not so much delivering solutions that allow for personalization but rather deciding who will curate the environment. “Who’s going to stand up and say, ‘I’ll take responsibility’?”

Is it the OEMs? The drivers? Third parties? The government?

As the conference entered its afternoon sessesions, attendees were reminded that the last of these options—the government—will certainly be a force to contend with moving forward. The final presentation of the day belonged to the Department of Transportation, which announced a “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving.” Among other things, the Blueprint encourages the remaining 11 states in the U.S. without distracted driving laws to enact and enforce the legislation, and it challenges the auto industry to adopt new and future guidelines for technology to reduce the potential for distraction on devices built or brought into vehicles.

“Distracted driving is an epidemic,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who was represented by Ronald Medford, Deputy Administrator for NHTSA, at the conference. “While we’ve made progress in the past three years by raising awareness about this risky behavior, the simple fact is people are continuing to be killed and injured – and we can put an end to it.”

How far the government will go on the regulatory front and how much the auto industry is willing to partner in the effort is still up for debate. Plenty to look forward to discussing come TU Detroit 2013.

For more on our TU Detroit coverage, visit the conference website or follow its Twitter Feet at #TUDetroit.


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