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What Carmakers Can Learn From Data

How can carmakers use data to improve vehicles, sustainability and profitability

15Jul

The idea of connected cars has been around for decades. In fact the first connected car debuted as early as 1997 at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Initially, fuel economy, parking space availability and environmental impact were the drivers of this innovation. Thus, first generation smart cars look almost like a cube: compact but lightweight and either hybrid or electric. Today, automakers design smart cars so that drivers are free from routine tasks to help them focus better on the road.

For tech companies, users who frequently do long drives are their favorite market, and to stay in the game, they have to pinpoint exactly what these customers want out of their connected cars. According to surveys, car users value features that save time, ensure safer journeys or call their attention to malfunctions. To address these needs, an integration of technologies for communications, information systems and safety is created to provide more sophisticated and efficient cars.

Recently, Citigroup published a report detailing the three ways by which mobile communications are influencing the automobile industry. The first is through applications made accessible by mobile networks to systems that are either installed in the vehicle or carried by the customer and connected to the vehicle. These include satellite navigation, access to music, videos and traffic updates. The second is through services based on the car data, such as an early warning alert to replace your car battery before it gets depleted. The third way is by bringing together multiple vehicles that communicate with each other and with a smart infrastructure built from a network of roadside sensors, traffic signals and remote data centers to direct traffic flow safely and smoothly.

While the first group is currently the most widespread service, there is excitement from the development of the second and third groups. Vehicle diagnostic systems, for instance, can greatly help car owners anticipate their maintenance costs. Data on driving behavior can be used by insurance companies in setting premium rates. In the future, auto insurance rates with regular cars can be significantly lower since insurance companies are capable of monitoring connected car driver behavior. How about vehicle-to-vehicle communication? Real-time information on proximity can help drivers avoid collisions or adjust their speed accordingly.

Consideration of all these development implies that systems should be in place to seamlessly connect drivers to the outside world. Interestingly, a recent report shows that, by 2020, 90% of vehicles will have built-in connectivity. Car makers should view cars from the perspective of a mobile device giving rise to what is now known as the connected car trend. With this, new cars are facing a different pace of evolution in comparison to old models. As consumers learn more and see more of these new smart car features, demand will catch up soon. In fact there is growing interest on the market despite the limited offerings. OnStar users love how their cars can automatically activate a call to emergency services when an accident happens.

Data will certainly be a crucial factor in shaping the next generation of smart cars and the transportation sector in general. Not because it solely concerns data harvesting of consumer patterns, but more importantly in mapping the traveling patterns of urban dwellers by looking at human behavior in various road scenarios.

Any technology that can increase the transportation network capacity whilst keeping accident statistics and pollution levels low will be known as intelligent mobility. This is the next big thing for the automobile and communications industries. Picture this: Cars that automatically change speed to prevent collisions with each other or a lead car about to reach a traffic light, setting the pace for all cars behind it. At the onset, intelligent mobility can take the form of a dashboard that informs the driver of upcoming bottlenecks and suggests alternate routes. Taking a step down, you can think of automobiles equipped with some sort of artificial intelligence that can complete mundane tasks.

Cities are getting busier, and by 2050, the urban population is expected to hit seven billion, a 100% increase on current numbers. More people will bring about more cars, more pollution and more accidents, but if cities work more efficiently with data and car usage, this may not be the case.

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