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Connected Car: 5 tips for compelling user experience

By James MacTavish / October 20, 2014

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As connected devices continue proliferate in our day to day lives, one device has struggled to be truly compelling till now: the connected car. Now utilizing new technology like 4G LTE, cloud platforms, and optimized apps, many wonder if the connected car will follow the route of mobile or become something totally different. Here are five observations that will ensure the connected car industry will grow and control the in car experience.

1. Apps and content will be completely different in-car than on mobile

Google Play and the Apple App Store have collectively amassed millions of apps throughout the years covering a variety of different categories. For the smart phone or tablet user, the exploration for the right app for the right function takes time but at least not at the expense of safety. For a connected car user, the utmost importance is maintaining the vehicle safely meaning the vast array of apps and the exploration for the right app is an incompatible experience. Connected car drivers want, and more importantly need highly relevant curated experiences that add value and not complexity to their driving experience. Even better yet, apps, services, and infotainment feeds should be delivered seamlessly as a managed service and as an extension of the car manufacturer’s brand.

2. Connected car experiences will be a highly competitive space both for OS and delivery

Much like the battles held between Apple and Google and even smaller rivals like that of BlackBerry and Microsoft, the operating systems for today’s connected car platform see automotive OEM’s jockeying for the best platform. From the developers perspective the battles lead to fragmentation and ultimately a very tough and costly environment to develop apps in. Over time the demand for standardization will see proprietary systems slowly disappear leading to a uniform platform that’s customizable between automotive manufacturers and developers.

3. Connected car experiences will and should evolve with the user

Consumers today on average buy a new car once every 6-7 years while smart phones are replaced on average every 2 years. This data emphasizes that in car infotainment units will be with their owners a very long time and for the most part will carry the same firmware it had on its last day as the first day it left the lot. As connected features are becoming integral to the driving experience of consumers, cars will become software based enabling dealers to perform updates during servicing and eventually over the air (SOTA –Software Over The Air). This will all enable users to receive more demanded features over time and allow automobile manufacturers to keep their customers vehicles up to date through their lengthy life times.

4. Connected Cars will be about telemetry just as much as infotainment

Even before IVI (In-vehicle infotainment) systems, vehicles carried and still do today a vast array of software, monitoring chips and sensors. This all accumulated in displaying whether your car was running optimally or needed an oil change for instance. Connected cars will eventually bring with it advanced telemetry enabling the car to not only monitor car performance but to speak to a variety of machines both internally and externally. Car manufacturers will have access to a wealth of user “big data” enabling to improve upon the vehicle based on deep statistical evidence. Vehicles will become moving sensors for one another updating weather for their particular location for another driver to utilize. Drivers can also benefit from having their vehicle speak to their future smart home devices enabling actions like opening the garage door and unlocking the house upon pulling up with little to no action required by the driver.

5. The connected car will be situated in a multi-screen environment

Today, a majority of drivers have a smart phone and unlike travelling on a plane, drivers need their phones to pair with their vehicles for calls. Interestingly enough, there is a growing trend to provide a heads up display of mobile on apps on the car dashboard. This ultimately requires two things, firstly; developers having the ability to approach the in-vehicle form as a second screen and secondly; a keen understanding of the functions a driver would want in an in-car environment. Just as important as transitioning content from smart phone to IVI is the reversal. Drivers will also come to expect that if they use a great service in car that once they leave they can continue using that service on the go on their smart phone.

Ultimately, the connected car market is changing radically and will continue to do so in the coming years. Consumers could go over the top and purchase after-market devices and pay for the content and services themselves. Or drivers can simply resort to using their smart phone if their IVI system in car doesn’t fit their driving experience. These are the biggest dangers for car manufacturers today but by embracing these 5 starting points they have every chance of providing incredible in car experiences and staying with their customers for the entire life time of their vehicles.