Connected Cars: a new era of performance

As cars become increasingly connected, a past focus on performance and reliability will shift into the realm of software and connected services, says John Rakowski - director of technology strategy at AppDynamics.

Since the birth of the automotive industry, performance and reliability have been integral to every successful car brand.

 John Rakowski, director - technology strategy, AppDynamics.
John Rakowski, director – technology strategy, AppDynamics.

With vehicles being a milestone purchase for most consumers, drivers and passengers need to know at the very least, that their car can get them from A to B.

As a result, automotive companies have dedicated time and effort into building up their manufacturing credentials in order to sell their products.

For instance, BMW entices customers through its premium build quality, just as Volvo persuades customers on account of its safety features.

That being said, as cars become increasingly connected to networks through in-built connectivity, and new incumbents enter the market to challenge traditional car brands, this focus on performance and reliability will also shift into the realm of software and connected services.

As a recent report from mobile association GSMA has shown, the global connected car market will be worth €39bn by 2018 – up from €13bn in 2012, indicating that connectivity is set to be the main driving force behind automotive industry growth.

From in-built safety features and entertainment, to navigation systems and insurance telematics, car manufactures will be expected to provide an array of additional services that meet the needs of today’s connected customers.

Road Risk

As well as presenting great opportunities for carmakers, this also presents huge risks.

Automotive businesses are suddenly finding themselves under increasing competition in a mature sector that has seen only 14 new competitors in the past half a century (most of which have failed).

The heads up display of the Nissan IDS concept - image courtesy of Nissan
The heads up display of the Nissan IDS Concept – image courtesy of Nissan.

For instance, Google and Apple have both been investing heavily in connected car projects of their own, meaning companies with a strong heritage in technology will also be competing for a slice of the market.

As a result, car manufacturers have been racing to form partnerships with major telecoms and technology providers to ensure they have the tools to stay on top.

Audi has just announced a deal with China’s largest telecoms company Huawei, to provide in car connectivity, Ford has partnered with Microsoft to provide cloud-based in car service, and GM has partnered with LG.

The Bentley Motors production line.
As well as presenting great opportunities for carmakers, the global connected car market also presents huge risks.

Although these partnerships are certainly a step in the right direction, all parties involved must work together to ensure that all connected car services live up to expectations.

Infotainment services

One of the biggest growth areas for car manufacturers will come in the form of infotainment services, as connectivity opens a whole new world of possibilities for in-car services, as was displayed by the Tokyo Motor Show recently.

For instance, advertisers are experimenting with targeted adverts based on a car’s location, and streaming services will be able to select music that matches the scenery.

Waze, a traffic app, has already been working with BP to offer restaurant vouchers when they drive past petrol stations to persuade them to fill up.

Because of this momentum, SBD predicts that in car services such as news, weather social networking and music streaming, will be supported by 32.1m cars sold in 2018 showing the scale of this growth.

As a result, automotive manufacturers and technology partners are battling to become the best at supplying these new services.

transportation and vehicle concept - man using car control panel to read news
Using analytics to understand how applications are used by drivers can help car manufacturers ensure a personalised in-car experience.

Additionally, using analytics to understand how applications are used by different drivers can help car manufacturers and partners ensure a personalised in-car experience.

Safety

The most rapid and beneficial changes that connected cars will bring will be the addition of new safety features.

Proposed legislation by the EU means that by 2018, all cars will be required to have a built-in eCall feature, which automatically alerts the emergency services in the event of an accident.

As a result, GSMA predicts this is set to be the most common feature of connected cars with 41.7m vehicles being shipped with this by 2018 — a great step forward in the prevention of road deaths, and a huge positive for the car industry generally.

However, for companies that fail to implement these systems effectively, the legal and reputational damage this could potentially inflict on the company could be huge.

As a result, any glitches or security breaches of these safety systems will simply not be tolerated and could provide disastrous for all parties involved.

In order to ensure that cars are as safe as they can be, safety features must come in the form of embedded systems, which contain the hardware, software and connectivity functions required in one entire unit.

In 2002 Honda introduced new, rapidly deploying side curtain airbag that protects vehicle occupants from head and neck injuries in the event of a side collision - image courtesy of Honda.
Safety features must come in the form of embedded systems, which contain the hardware, software and connectivity functions required in one entire unit.

As a result, car manufacturers can ensure that safety devices within vehicles will be ready to be activated as and when they need to be.

By using firewalls that separate safety devices from other, less essential functions on the network, manufacturers can ensure that that any glitches in other services do not place these essential mechanisms at risk.

A new era of performance

For years, the ability to provide vehicles and components that perform effectively has been the bread and butter of the car industry.

However, just as PC makers found themselves struggling as the emphasis on investment shifted to software, the biggest growth areas for the automotive industry will now lie in connected services.

Of course, a huge factor of this will lie in innovation as carmakers and their technology partners look at new ways to provide services to customers.

Just as importantly, automotive companies must not reject the performance credentials that have been key to their success.