To some extent, many of the cars we see today have an element of connectivity. This could be from the ability to connect to a smartphone through bluetooth, through to being able to communicate how people are using their entertainment systems back to the manufacturer.
However, this connectivity is presently limited in its capability. It can incrementally improve the experience with a vehicle, but in many cases, this is the extent that the connectivity extends to.
2015 is likely to see this change.
2015 marks the year where every new car sold in Europe needs to have an automated collision sensor, meaning that collisions are automatically registered, with the location and other details sent through to authorities in order to minimize the time that emergency services spend getting to crashes.
This is the first genuinely multi brand interconnected technology that legislation has dictated, but we are likely to see more in the future, not only to improve safety, but also to improve the general quality of driving.
It is not only governments and international organisations who are looking at the benefits of having connected vehicles though. We reported on how Ford at embarking on a new connected period, with experiments currently being undertaken to assess the best metrics to track and how to track them.
This kind of work will allow problems to be rectified before they become serious. It will be of benefit to the manufacturers who can identify potential faults and stock parts accordingly, but it will also cost consumers less if they can prevent major faults occurring in future.
The ability of a car to communicate that it has a problem with a part or system is going to not only revolutionise the way that manufacturers order and produce parts, but will also elongate the time that a customer will be interacting with the company.
A connected car will mean that the relationship between customer and company will not only increase in terms of time, but will also need to improve regarding the way that customers are dealt with by customer service representatives. It will mean that not only will automotive manufacturers become product producers, but also vendors to improve the experience of driving. This will be through system updates and communicating issues that arise to the customers, rather than visa versa.
At present the car market is worth around $30 billion, but by 2020, with the increased connectivity and opportunities that this brings, the total will increase to around $170 billion. The ability of sensors to communicate on the scale that will be needed to make this happen may well be one of the single largest uses for the Internet Of Things in the years to come. Without it and the vast data management capabilities that we currently have, this process would be almost impossible.
The interconnectivity of the cars will also need to be complemented by the interconnectivity of the data sets that are being gathered. This is because faults may be occurring due to a particular type of use, which can then be identified and actions taken to either minimize the damage or to notify customers of potential problems that may occur from the way they are using their vehicle.
It will also need to bridge the gap between mechanical and human interaction with a vehicle. Often there is an emotional connection between the driver and the vehicle that is difficult to quantify, but makes a significant impact on the enjoyment of how somebody uses the car or may impact which vehicle they are likely to buy. It will be the job of some of the first truly connected vehicles, to establish what causes this connection and allow future cars to be designed with these specific needs addressed.
As car design improves we are likely to see improved cars and better sensors, which will in turn create a cycle of monitoring and improvement. Essentially, we are now at the beginning of people powered car design, even if they are not going to be the ones in the drawing room, their natural responses will be the main design briefs for the next generation of modern vehicles.