What's The Road Ahead For Connected Vehicles?


Imagine a car, well acquainted with your lifestyle; calling out, “your favorite cafe is just 2.3 KM away to grab your morning tea and toast.” Imagine a car, reminding you an extra mile in advance, to fill your tank with precious fuel; so you never run out of it. Imagine reaching your destination on time and already being directed to a free parking spot; to make your regular Monday routine a bit more peaceful.

Well, the good news is connected cars offer you all of the above and much more. The connected vehicle technology marvel brings this synergy through Vehicle-to-Vehicle, Vehicle-to-Infrastructure and Vehicle-to-Smartphone models. This is done by connecting your car to the cloud through internet/4G or an upcoming 5G connection and sending a request to smartly navigate the road through GPS, find your favorite restaurant or just play music you choose. Moreover, it guides you through the best routes, assesses any potential hazard or accident-prone sites along the way and communicates the potential issues in the vehicle using on-board diagnostics, before any of those leave you stranded.

India is relatively new to the connected cars segment, but the future holds promise because we need connectivity on-the-go. This connectivity is required for the basics, like tracking vehicles and the essentials like providing travelers with customized services.

World over, the focus on autonomous vehicles and the need for alternative fuels is pushing cutting-edge innovation in the automotive industry. Although companies are investing heavily to make these technologies relevant today, there are pertinent issues to address before these modern innovations become part of our daily lives.

Autonomous Vehicles as Both a Sustaining and Disruptive Innovation – The Evolution

There’s always been a debate on innovation creating new markets versus evolving in existing markets and improving value. Disruption by its nature takes people by surprise. The Connected Self-driving car will be both sustaining and disruptive. In order, to keep up with the pace of advancements, there’ll be the need for more detailed maps, driver assist features like real-time traffic and road conditions, bridges, local signs, buildings and more.

It’s not that the Connected Vehicles arena became popular in a few months. It has been there for a while and it took all those baby steps which any innovation usually encompasses.

- Stage one was stop and go autopilot allowing cars to drive themselves in traffic jams by analyzing the lane ahead of them and moving appropriately.

- Stage two was the remote valet assistant, the ability to park in a small space through a smartphone or a smartwatch. 

- Stage three was highway autopilot with lane changing, which included blind spot technology to shift lanes.

- Now, Stage 4 is set for exciting features, which is self-driving cars. Next stage may well be totally driverless vehicles not needing even a steering wheel at all.

App Integration

Just like any other disruptive technology, integration with existing eco-system is the key to penetrate the markets seamlessly. App integration is becoming commonplace in today’s vehicles. Google Maps and other navigation tools have begun to replace built-in GPS systems. Apps such as GasBuddy show the driver where he or she can find the cheapest fuel in their area. Music apps such as Spotify remove the need for traditional or even satellite radio. Apple’s “CarPlay” runs through a car’s onboard entertainment system when an iPhone is connected and is working to extend far beyond car software.

How IoT and Data Analytics: Making Smart Cars ‘Smarter’

Keeping any computerized system secure begins with keeping operating systems and software updated. For assets like phones, computing stations like desktops, servers, laptops, etc. are relatively easier, considering they operate within defined geo limits. But for movable assets like a phone or better still moving cars, expecting owners to bring their vehicles into the shop for updates is not the way to keep their vehicle systems updated. Only feasible way to keep connected vehicle platforms and applications updated is to use Over-the-Air, or OTA technology, where updates are downloaded wirelessly. Think of an OTA system; a corollary of a Smartphone. OTA upgrades are similar to how we get Software and firmware upgrades Over-the-Air from Phone Manufacturers like Android L to Android M and beyond.

Another corollary between Connected Vehicle and Mobile phone eco-system is 3rd party applications which can run on such systems. Just like Android Play-Store or Apple App-Store provide a choice of applications which can be downloaded at will, similar platforms are available for Connected Vehicles which allow car companies to release different kinds of applications and software updates in real-time. The updates mechanism is extremely important during a recall as well as to cross-sell the products and services to customers.

Security & Privacy Concerns

In order to avail the benefits of a connected car eco system, the owner may have to agree to share vehicle data with the IT-infrastructure of governments, utility providers and corporations. In return, the consumer or owner accepts services in the form of a free, paid service or contract from governments and the corporate. With so much rush to equip vehicles with all the technology for diagnostics, navigation, driver assistance, autonomous driving, safety features, plus infotainment, there lies the risk of hacking. The risk can vary from controlling access to firmware, impairing communication between back-end servers and vehicles, to all the way controlling cruise control taking full control of the vehicle. Contrary to popular projections like cyber-attacks stopping cars or causing vehicles to change direction, such attacks are not likely because they wouldn’t be profitable. A more likely scenario is to scrape identity, banking or other payment information, medical information, financial information and any other information user would want to keep private.

Aftermarket Analytics May Increase Uptime

Need for connected intelligence in the automotive world is paramount owing to a need for avoiding breakdowns, reduce fake warranty claims, tracking the fleet etc. An advanced analytics platform combined with historic performance information, can produce predictive models. They combine the data extracted from location, sensory data like engine temperature, oil pressure, airflows, brake fluids, hydraulics, tyre pressure, electric systems, event data like vehicle maintenance records, trip history as well as contextual data like navigation information, traffic volumes, predicted weather conditions along the route and garage locations.

Predicting Failures Early Can Boost Profits

Using predictive analytics, automotive players are improving the product before it leaves the factory. Needless to say, such predictive analytics allows enhancements in product quality, improving customer loyalty and satisfaction, ultimately in-turn increasing profitability for auto makers. Imagine this technology in ridesharing, in transportation & logistics, solving the last mile. According to a Gartner report by 2020, 50% of motor vehicle manufacturers will apply advanced analytics to connected-vehicle data to identify and correct product defects.

The growing connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT) will have positive impact on the growth of the industry. The mobility industry will increase, as people will opt for shorter commutes with multiple modes. With regards to the progress of driverless vehicles in India, it has already started and is likely to come much faster than one would expect. Electrification of public transport is around the corner and will be affordable too, given a faster payback from 10 years of vehicle life and 250km of average running a day.

This is big business, indeed, and the next wave is already witnessing software-driven companies focusing on building connected vehicle platforms and services from India, which is great news. In future, companies also plan to simulate and test autonomous heavy vehicles and those vehicles meant for the farm sector. Of course, it will take quite a while for autonomous driving to become a commonplace reality on our highways, but the journey has already begun.

[Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Trivone Media Network's or that of CXOToday's.]