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Connected driving experience

The way cars are built, serviced and used is all set to change. Karen McCandless explores the devices, services and technologies that are shaping the future of the automotive industry

The way we travel is evolving. Consumers expect to be connected and access and share information wherever they are – even while driving. Given the amount of time people spend in their cars every day, the vehicle is set to become the ultimate connected mobile device – a term coined by Thilo Koslowski, vice president and distinguished analyst and global automotive practice leader at Gartner.

“Consumers experience mobility and connectivity in all areas of their lives. They don’t understand why this should stop when they get in their cars,” adds Chris Harries, worldwide industry solutions manager, automotive, Microsoft. “Consumers want a service that combines information and communications in the same way as at work and at home.”

Koslowski agrees that consumers are calling the shots. “In the beginning, automotive manufacturers put technology in the car and then waited for consumers to adopt it,” he says. “But, as part of their increasingly digital lifestyle, OEMs’ vehicle strategies increasingly have to satisfy digital lifestyle requirements aimed at the connected driver.”

OEMs’ vehicle strategies increasingly have to satisfy digital lifestyle requirements aimed at the connected driver

Thilo Koslowski, vice president and distinguished analyst and global automotive practice leader at Gartner
As a result, there has been a shift of power from the OEMs to consumers, as they actively engage in social communities, impacting brand value and influencing what OEMs put in the car. “Consumers are now dictating the speed and the way in which a service is delivered,” says Patrick Katenkamp, COO, incadea. “This is causing a dramatic shift in the way cars are sold or serviced. In the past, automakers sent out a catalogue and consumers browsed the brochures before visiting the dealership. But now, not only do consumers interact with dealerships while carrying out more research on the internet, they also jump back and forth in the sales process. They research on the internet, visit the dealership, go back to do more research, get advice on social media and so on.”

Given that consumers are a major driving force behind in-car technology, these systems must keep pace with consumer electronics. “The in-car platform needs to develop and update at the same pace as the mobile phone while providing seamless user experience and a familiar interface,” says Koslowski.

And Kirk Gutmann, vice president of automotive strategy at Siemens PLM Software, believes that the mobile experience is key: “The separation of the phone from the car is going away. Instead, it is being integrated with the vehicle so consumers don’t have to deal with two environments.”

Meanwhile, differing demographics and market needs, as well as government regulation and legislation, are playing a part. Sanjay Ravi, worldwide managing director of discrete manufacturing at Microsoft, explains: “In Brazil, government regulations state that cars cannot be sold without a tracking device to help trace stolen vehicles. This is aimed at reducing car theft, which is high in that part of the world. This factor alone is driving the connected vehicle market there.”

“In China, younger generations have skipped a wave of technology,” adds Katenkamp. “They think if they spend money on a luxury car then the in-car experience should be just as good as the driving experience and look of the car; they are open to more experimental experiences and technology.”
Automakers must make sure they focus on getting this experience right as an increasing number of cars will ship with these systems in the years to come. Koslowski puts this figure at being 60 per cent of premium brand cars by 2014. And, according to global market research company JD Power, technology has now surpassed entertainment as the number one driver when buying a premium brand car.

“In the past, air conditioning in a car was an upgrade option but now it comes standard,” says Ravi. “In the same way, consumers will expect in-car connected systems – they won’t view them as an optional extra. With market research firm iSuppli predicting that by 2017 more than 90 per cent of vehicles will have connected technology, compared to only 20 per cent in 2010, this is a serious growth area for manufacturers.”

Connected vehicle experiences
With the pressure on automakers to create a differentiated experience, there are four key solution areas that they need to focus on:
In-vehicle technologyWindows Embedded Automotive is currently deployed as the platform in cars such as Ford SYNC, Kia UVO and Fiat Blue&Me. “This is a flexible platform that continually updates as consumer expectations and technology develops,” says Microsoft’s Harries.

Jim Buczkowski, Henry Ford technical fellow and director of Electrical and Electronics Systems, Ford Research and Innovation, describes the company’s reasons for using Windows Embedded Automotive at the core of its SYNC technology: “Having a platform that we could build on was important. Working with Microsoft and the Windows Embedded platform meant we could add new features over time while being able to respond quicker to new ideas and bring them to market in a shorter timescale.”

Scalable and global cloud platforms – Microsoft public, hybrid and private cloud capabilities enable up-to-date, real-time information to be provided to the vehicle in a secure way. Toyota, for example, is developing and deploying telematics applications on the Windows Azure platform.

Ford is another manufacturer taking advantage of the cloud. “We have a concept for the connected car of tomorrow called Evos and one of its key features is our SYNC in-car system’s ability to automatically access historical and location-based data that’s stored in the cloud,” says Buczkowski. “This data will provide SYNC with a baseline understanding of the driver’s habits and preferences, as well as variables like the weather forecast, daily schedules, local points of interest, and unexpected events or traffic hazards that might impact the driver’s safety or schedule.”

Big data and real-time analytics – information collected from in-car systems can enable next-generation diagnostics and maintenance. Microsoft StreamInsight analyses streaming data on the go, allowing the OEM to continually monitor the status of a vehicle or component, look for exceptions in streaming data and use these to trigger actions or alerts. “By using sensors in the car, we can identify things that start to go wrong before they get to a fail point,” says Ravi.

“Collecting more precise data about smaller segments of your business can lead to custom engineering and faster development of your products,” adds Kirsten Billhardt, manufacturing marketing strategist at Dell. “Information collected from embedded electronics allows manufacturers to start learning about how vehicles are performing in the market. They can see if components are fatiguing and proactively reach out and get the customer to come into the dealership. They can also learn if one of their components is over engineered so they can reduce the costs of manufacturing it. And as they collect more data, they can look at trends over a longer period of time and identify where they can take action, with this preventive maintenance applied across an entire fleet.”

And Gutmann explains another benefit to remote diagnostics capabilities: “The service side will become more efficient. Automotive manufacturers will be able to cut the time customers spend in the dealership; knowing the problem in advance will enable them to have the parts ready when the customer visits. Integrating the dealership into the connected car experience improves the levels of service they can provide.”

Customer experience management platform – normally when a customer walks out of the dealership they have no reason to return other than for a scheduled service, or if they have a problem with the car, but delivery of connected vehicle services changes this, and it changes the demands of OEM and dealer CRM platforms. With a CRM solution like Dynamics CRM, OEMs and dealers can manage the consumer and brand experience, helping to develop a personalised relationship with the customer. They can also enable connectivity to the in-car system, finding out more details about the customer and their vehicle. “Once dealers sell cars, it’s hard to have a continuing relationship, but with connectivity, auto companies can maintain and monetise a relationship throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle while generating long-term customer loyalty,” says Ravi.

“Today many OEMs have a lot of isolated solutions with data in silos, and the same goes for the dealers,” says Katenkamp. “But consumers expect the same kind of seamless cross-channel experience they get in other industries, such as travel and retail. The dealership and the OEMs need a joint approach with integrated and connected systems to manage the service experience in a different way. The incadea.engine solution – which runs on the Dynamics platform – has been designed especially for car dealers, workshops and importers, and seamlessly integrates dealership departments and business procedures to help capture, consolidate, manage and share data more effectively and efficiently. It also provides a direct connection to many OEM applications.”

This time of connected experience will also help with delivering a seamless and personal experience, not just for the driver, but also the passengers. “In any industry, knowing the customer leads to higher sales and value add,” says Bill Popp, VP of manufacturing sales at Dell. “The OEMs can customise tuning by understanding individual driver habits or preferences.”

These four solution areas combined provide a solid base for OEMs to compete in the market. “Manufacturers can gain a competitive edge through CRM systems and analytics all connected to the cloud through a dynamic interface in the car,” says Harries. “They need to focus on all these four elements to drive differentiation in the market place.”

“We will see more focused localisation data,” says Popp. “For example, if you are on the road and the vehicle sees that it’s coming up to lunch time, it will suggest restaurants nearby for you to eat at. It’s proactively providing you with the information in an automated way rather than waiting for you to ask it. And having a 3G connection and the ability to monitor your vehicle via smartphone will be powerful. For example, if I’ve just landed from a long flight, I can have my vehicle running by the time I reach it; that’s important if you live somewhere cold like Detroit.”

In the future, in car system functionality may include biometrics. Ford Research has developed an experimental system that adds infrared sensors to the steering wheel to monitor the palms of a driver’s hands. An infrared sensor under the steering column also measures the cabin temperature so it can compare changes in the driver’s temperature. The final sensor is in the seat belt to assess the driver’s breathing rate. This can provide a more complete picture of the driver’s health and better tailor the experience behind the wheel.

And Koslowski, a passionate speaker and advocate of connected cars, provides his view of what the future holds: “Over the next few years, we will see the rise in a social network of cars where they talk to each other and the surrounding environment to optimise traffic flow, minimise congestion, reduce pollution and increase mobility. In the future, cars could also monitor a driver’s emotional state and assess what information they can consume. For example, in heavy traffic, calls could go to voicemail and text messages could be read out loud when the car stops at a traffic light. There will also be an increase in the number of self-driving cars on the road, which will be incredibly beneficial to elderly people and those who are ill or blind. They could, for example, drive them to a hospital in an emergency. But none of this can be achieved by the automotive industry alone; technology from companies like Microsoft is key in shaping the future of the connected automobile.”


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