Many people expect the car of the future to be a self-driving car. But there is more to the digitalization of cars. The car of the future will, above all, be a connected car.
It is remarkable that it’s tech companies that are beginning to explore new options for re-inventing the automotive industry (e.g. Google and Tesla). Self-driving cars, sensor technology and the Internet of Things will have a profound impact on society and the industry itself. So why are traditional car manufacturers not on the forefront of innovation?
The answer is quite clear: mobile technology is one thing, cars are another. Smart phones entered our lives not long ago. We accept technical problems with phones and networks because the technology is quite new. Cars, however, are not a novelty anymore. We have high expectations. For car manufacturers, reliability is everything. They know that their customers must trust them which makes it even more important that car and technology companies work together. For example, Google built its own car, but also announced that it's going to integrate technology for OEMs. Companies should realize that you can't separate technological innovation for cars from car manufacturing.
Convergence of technologies
The next couple of years will mark the convergence of several new technologies which will enable the ‘car as a platform’. Think about Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), augmented reality and holographic projections of data on the windscreen. These will improve the quality of driving and the experience of people traveling in cars. Some of them merely change the way you interact with existing on-board systems, but others will open doors to completely new possibilities. AI can predict what the driver needs and even take action upon these predictions. If you drive an electric vehicle, it will book a charging station and guide you to it when the battery runs low. Or it will analyze your driving performance and help you to avoid accidents.
Much of innovation happening around cars right now revolves around the theme ‘connectivity.’ There are many services emerging around things like telematics and data analytics. For example, insurance. An insurance company can create a profile of a driver, collect information about the way he drives and offer him a fair price for his coverage. Another trend is the movement towards the 'car-as-a-service', especially for younger people who don't want to own a car anymore. For them, it's not about owning a car but about getting from point A to point B. New business models will emerge around car sharing, but for companies who need to manage their fleets, connectivity is the key part. This is another reason why the car of the future will be a connected car.
New connectivity solutions are ideally designed with partners. Orange’s IoT Connect Advanced service, based on a platform designed with Ericsson and the Global M2M Association (GMA), is such a partnership. This is an embedded solution which can download the profile of any GMA operator onto the car's SIM card. As a result, the whole fleet could be managed centrally, while each car can be connected to a local telecom partner, thus enabling optimal quality of service, high bandwidth usages, in accordance with local communication regulation. Also the solution is unique for its B2B2C approach – it sells connectivity for end users through car manufacturers. One of the reasons this solution will make a big difference is ‘car infotainment.’ This is also an essential part of the evolution of cars. Passengers can listen to music, stream videos or play online video games. Huge volumes of data will be transmitted through mobile networks and connectivity is, again, key. And with self-driving cars becoming more prominent, everybody on board will have something to do while they are not driving.