2020: Living in an Era of Connected Cars

In the upcoming era of connected devices, internet connected cars will become a major facet of the exploding Internet of Things (IoT). Chinese tech giant Alibaba recently launched an “internet car” in partnership with SAIC, which is powered by its own operating system – YunOS. The car offers its passengers a range of futuristic features, including the ability to control the cabin with voice commands, recognize the driver by their smartphone or smartwatch, and customize the car settings to suit their environmental and entertainment preferences. In the past few months, the boundary between the technology and automotive has begun to blur as several industry giants have started to team up for the connected car wars including Volkswagen with LG, Google with Fiat Chrysler, Lyft with GM, and Uber with Hyundai and Toyota.

The newly formed tech-auto partnerships are concentrating on the following areas:

/ Technologies for driverless cars
/ Technologies that connect smart cars to smart homes
/ New ways to deliver context-sensitive messages and notifications
/ Next generation in-car entertainment and information technologies
/ Next generation ridesharing and car-sharing
/ Enhanced safety and traffic management through vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-everything communication

According to Gartner, by 2020, a quarter of a billion connected vehicles will have in-vehicle services and automated driving capabilities. If we are to believe that this prediction is to come to fruition, the question ultimately becomes:  What will living in a world with connected cars really be like?

Personalization

We always love to personalize the products we use and the places where we spend most of our time, like our home, office, and for many us, our car. The reason why we are always looking for ways to customize our car is to align it with our personality and preferences. As smart algorithms and context-aware software learn more about us – our behavior, likes, dislikes, and preferences – the scope of personalization could become a sales driver in the future. Car-sharing services currently lack personalization. With internet connected cars, it would be possible to improve the car-sharing experience, as the users would be able to personalize the cars by importing their IoT car avatar from their personal car to the shared car.

Connected Car Services That Add Value

Smart learning algorithms and context-aware software will pave the way for several services that add value to internet connected cars. Car insurance companies who have started offering pay as you drive insurance services are current relying on retrofitted devices to track the user’s driving behavior. With an internet connected car, companies would be able to predict the insurance premium by directly communicating with your car about your driving abilities and behavior, as well as the conditions of your regular driving routes. These cars could also integrate into the larger IoT ecosystem is through a system that allows you to make a reservation in a restaurant using voice commands. This system would communicate to the nearest parking lot and book a spot for you in order to create a seamless experience.

Digital Services and Content for In-Car Consumption

Ixonos, a Finnish creative technology company, delivers a cloud-based in-car digital content store for Honda, based on the Ixonos Experience Store for Automotive™, through a service called Honda App Center. It is a customizable white label ecommerce platform for distributing digital services and content, including certified applications and services. The platform would allow future drivers to make hassle-free app purchases and take care of parking fees through safe epayment solutions.

Vehicle-to-Everything Communication and Infotainment

Controller Area Network (CAN) is the main communications bus that is used today. Market research firm Frost & Sullivan predicts that by 2020 many cars will have 50 to 60 Ethernet ports and even entry-level vehicles will have 10. This move towards Ethernet reflects the fact that in-vehicle electronics are becoming more sophisticated, in order to support autonomous driving, exterior and interior cameras, embedded displays, and infotainment systems. Simply put, while the driver is following the turn by turn instructions and context-specific messages augmented on his windscreen, fellow passengers can stream movies and music.

While these benefits make the prospect of a world filled with internet connected cars appear desirable, there are others who consider this to be an unwelcome technological advancement.

Security

The concern first and foremost is security. One of the major driving forces of IoT in the future will be how software enables the connected world. Last July, Wired reported a frightening tale of two hackers who took control of a journalist’s Jeep Cherokee by leveraging a software vulnerability. In February, a researcher showed how the Nissan Leaf electric car can be easily hacked using information from the car’s companion mobile app. In the coming years, as our vehicles become smarter and the network of connected devices becomes increasingly complex, security will be the chief concern of those in the automotive industry. Companies will have to build and execute solutions to protect their in-car and mobile app software from cyber attacks, and these security solutions will have to be defined and standardized globally.

Cost

There’s no doubt that connected cars will not be cheap. Sophisticated embedded electronics, software security shields, digital services, content, and high data consumption will significantly drive up their cost, making them unattainable for many. It will also be difficult to sell connected car services through existing business models, as additional charges will have to be added monthly based on the amount and the nature of a car’s usage. As a result, new business models will be necessary to distribute the added, ongoing costs and lower the initial cost. One proposed model is for consumers to own a car of their choice, but pay through a monthly fee, which is based on the total distance they intend to travel in a month. The fee can have both a fixed (the initial cost of the car) and variable (the maintenance and insurance cost) component. This approach would simultaneously maintain car sales and enable consumers to own their own cars.

The connected car is no longer a thing of science fiction, or even of the distant future. Instead, it appears increasingly likely that they will be readily available and be considered mainstream by as early as 2020. In order to grab maximum share of the connected car pie, auto companies might expedite the development of connected cars without giving the necessary due diligence to security. Given the concerns around security and cost, it is vital that companies strike a balance between the pace at which they want to connect cars to the internet, and the extent that we want our cars to connect to the internet. We need to be mindful that securing digital products and services fully is a difficult and time consuming process.

the author

Sajan Mathew