Despite the economic hurdles the American automotive industry has recently encountered, connected in-vehicle telematics has evolved to provide a real opportunity for wireless companies to offer connectivity and content for auto makers. In this new environment, in-vehicle functionality will move away from in-dash navigation systems built on static information housed on a DVD. Now, wireless carriers and auto makers are partnering to offer real-time, hands-free access to personalized traffic reports, precise turn-by-turn directions and up-to-date news, sports and weather reports. This is just the beginning of what could be delivered to drivers via a connected service. Vehicles are now the “fourth screen” for wireless content delivery.
DRIVING DEMAND: SMARTPHONES
With the increasing processing power of smartphones and faster wireless network speeds, consumers have come to rely on their mobile phones for much more than phone calls. The rapid adoption of smartphones has increased consumers’ appetites for connected information on the go. Consumers increasingly want their cars to provide the connectivity they are accustomed to in their everyday lives – my data, on my things, on the go. In fact, Gartner believes that by 2016, wireless connectivity in cars will be as traditional as power steering is today.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE CONNECTED CAR
Initially developed for safety reasons, the first versions of in-vehicle telematics focused on automatic crash notification and stolen vehicle tracking, which proved quite powerful. Studies show that in-vehicle telematics can increase the recovery rate of stolen vehicles from 62 percent to 80 percent. Despite their relative success, however, these systems have room to grow.
Today’s in-vehicle telematics solutions are developed not only for safety and driver convenience, but also to improve the overall driving experience. One of the newest in-vehicle telematics systems is Ford SYNC with Traffic, Directions and Information, which uses TeleNav to provide GPS-based navigation services.
Ford SYNC allows drivers to use voice commands to enter in destinations (addresses), providing a hands-free interface. After the destination is entered, traffic-optimized turn-by-turn directions appear on the head unit display. Audio directions are provided through the car’s audio system. Directions also incorporate real-time traffic information in the case of a road closure or unexpected detour, automatically rerouting the driver around these obstacles. Additionally, drivers can get text messages that provide the location and severity of accidents or road construction. Plus, drivers can define and categorize their favorite media topics from their car or PC in order to receive personalized sports reports, zip-code-targeted weather reports and news of all types.
Drivers are able to get this data simply by bringing a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone into the vehicle. The system works with a consumer’s voice plan, so no extra data plan is required. This makes in-vehicle telematics more accessible to a greater number of drivers who may live in an area with limited data coverage or who simply don’t yet subscribe to a data plan. Ford is breaking new ground for auto makers by demonstrating how in-vehicle connectivity can dramatically change the driving experience while also minimizing costs and time to market.
Automotive suppliers are also working with auto makers to leverage this fourth screen. Continental has announced a solution called AutoLinQ, an open-source platform that the company says will enable drivers and passengers to personalize their car by safely downloading information and content from the Web to the dash.
All of this activity is enabled with the driver in mind.
So what is next for the automotive industry? We know consumers want further integration between their vehicle and their connected devices around features other than safety and security. For example, they want integration between their phone-based navigation system and their vehicle rather than two separate systems. We believe the future includes more integration of the mobile environment in the car, improved driver access to information in a safe manner, and a true cooperation between onboard vehicle devices and consumer devices.
Since auto makers are already adding bigger and more capable displays to their vehicles, it is a shame that there is not already more integration between portable electronics and these in-vehicle displays. However, we believe this will improve over time with the increase in wireless integration.
While the latest generation of in-vehicle telematics solutions undoubtedly offers many benefits for drivers, the auto and wireless industries also stand to gain from in-vehicle telematics solutions. Providing the greatest that technology has to offer, auto manufacturers will sell more cars and improve customer loyalty. Wireless carriers, providing additional opportunities for their customers, will see new revenue streams. Further, wireless content providers that have traditionally developed applications for mobile phones will extend their reach into the vehicle to earn new customers.
For all parties involved, in-vehicle telematics solutions have evolved from basic one- or two-feature systems to fully connected, real-time data solutions that will soon become standard in all vehicles. The connected vehicle is a new reality that is changing both the automotive and wireless industries.
Jose Bedolla is Automotive Business Development Director at TeleNav.