With a pair of shiny automobiles parked just off the stage, the Day 2 keynote session began Wednesday with a panel focused on preparing for the emerging market for the connected car.
Newly appointed CEO of AT&T Mobility, Glenn Lurie, and Ralph de la Vega, now CEO of Mobile and Business Solutions, hosted a connected car panel that featured Arun Bhikshesvaran, CMO at Ericsson; Mary Chan, president of Global Connected Consumer at General Motors (GM); Mike Kennewick, founder and CEO of VoiceBox; and Jay Vijayan, the CIO at Tesla.
De la Vega started things off touting AT&T’s role in the connected car space and dropped some numbers that framed the market’s future. In the United States, 60 percent of cars will have an embedded cellular module by 2017, he said, and noted that the segment will be worth $104 billion globally, $35 billion in the United Sates by that time.
GM is off to an early start with its connected car efforts. Chan said there are now 33 models of GM cars with LTE built in. She reiterated the strong uptake on the free connectivity trials in GM cars and said the company wants to maintain those connections by offering simple plans. She also announced that GM and AT&T are expanding their relationship in order to bring OnStar to Europe.
But she also emphasized that it’s about more than just propping up a Wi-Fi hotspot in a vehicle.
“We’re turning this into more of a connected platform,” Chan said. GM and others are focused on enhancing safety, information and entertainment options for vehicles.
Making the connected car safe was paramount to the panel’s discussion and to that end, the focus was put on hands- and eyes-free technology in the vehicle. That generally leaves speech as the best option for accessing and controlling connected car features.
OnStar is one of the earliest voice-controlled telematics systems, but VoiceBox has been working on expanding speech-activated applications for the vehicle.
Kennewick talked about the connected car in terms of the larger Internet of Things space and the difficulty of covering the entire landscape with one application. But he insisted that voice is something that can span across all of it, from the connected car to smartwatches to connected appliances.
Vijayan added that Tesla set out to build a “ground up connected car” with the idea that consumers deserve a good feedback loop and that it can only make the car safer to drive.
As Tesla gets ready to reach out to a wider market with its crossover Model X—with a mass market car coming in a few years—it needs to scale up the connected solutions it’s been using in the Model S. Eventually Tesla will open its platform to partners but for now it’s focused on connections that don’t affect safety.
Bhikshesvaran said that Ericsson has found that the number one feature customers want is advanced assisted driving. His company looks at how to accomplish that from the software side and the network side.
Of course putting LTE into a vehicle is about opening up the information and entertainment available through a mobile broadband connection but it’s clear that the only path to that sort of innovation has to pass through rigorous safety guidelines. But De la Vega seemed confident that the balance will be met.
“It’s going to be safer and more entertaining than anything you’ve ever done,” De la Vega said.