Connected Vehicles – Bringing New Technology to Market
This month’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas saw a variety of new innovations from auto manufacturers and the electronics industry, and provided a great opportunity to look at some of the new technologies poised for introduction in connected vehicles in the next few years.
According to a study released by consulting firm Accenture in December last year, in-vehicle technology is the top selling point for 39% of car buyers in today’s market; more than double the 14% that said their first considerations are traditional performance measures such as power and speed. Consumers are increasingly keen to stay connected to their digital lives when in their vehicles, and this has prompted a race amongst car makers to introduce connected tech as soon as possible. And while connectivity remains such a key selling point, manufacturers are also looking for ways to use the technology to differentiate their vehicles, rather than just becoming a generic interface for a connected phone or device.
Open Automotive Alliance
At the CES 2014, it was announced that Audi, GM, Google, Honda, Hyundai and NVIDIA have joined forces to form the Open Automotive Alliance; a global alliance committed to bringing the Android platform to cars, starting from this year.
Apple already has a number of automotive partners for iOS in the car, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and with the dashboard likely to become the next battlefield for connected devices, the OAA represents an important development as the two major OS platforms go head-to-head. The organisation will use Android’s open development model to allow automakers to bring cutting-edge technology to customers on a familiar platform, while creating new opportunities for developers to deliver new experiences to drivers and passengers in a safe and scalable way.
The first vehicles with Android integration are expected to reach the market later this year.
High speed connectivity
The possibilities for connected vehicles are almost endless, but ultimately will rely on ultra-fast internet connections to reach their potential. Audi revealed at the show that it is soon to offer 4G LTE in its cars for U.S. drivers as part of a partnership with AT&T.
The first ever 4G LTE service will launch with the 2015 Audi A3 Saloon with the new Audi Connect system. The high speed connectivity will support picture navigation, social media and mobile app integration, and access to over 7,000 web radio stations. Audi and AT&T will also offer a mobile share data plan option for AT&T wireless customers who want to add their vehicle to their existing smartphone data plan.
The new A3 family will feature the most advanced version of Audi Connect yet, with read-aloud news headlines, Facebook and Twitter notifications, and personalised RSS news feeds. The high speed connectivity will also allow faster Google Earth and Google Street View enhancements to Audi MMI Navigation Plus, while providing faster downloads and HD video streaming for up to eight devices used by passengers over the in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot. An accompanying mobile app will include advanced functionality between the MMI system and smartphones, reducing the temptation for drivers to handle their devices when accessing smartphone-based features.
Another manufacturer to announce its plans for 4G LTE connectivity at the show was Chevrolet. Also in partnership with AT&T, the car-maker will offer U.S. drivers high speed internet connections on the 2015 Corvette, Impala, Malibu and Volt models to be released later this year. Announced at the same time was the launch of Chevrolet’s own app store – Chevrolet Appshop.
The App store will be accessible through an icon on the MyLink interface’s touchscreen, and will allow customers to view all available apps for the vehicle, then download, organise, update and delete them as required. The initial list of apps released includes apps such as Vehicle Health, iHeartRadio, Priceline.com, The Weather Channel, NPR, Tunein Radio, Eventseeker, and Glympse.
Hyundai Genesis connects with Google Glass
Hyundai used the CES 2014 to announce that it will support the use of Google Glass in its future Genesis models. The manufacturer is working with Covisint on the car-device integration, using Hyundai Blue Link technology to communicate with Google Glass via the Covisint technology layer.
Launched in 2012, Blue Link offers functionality such as finding the cheapest fuel and monitoring car performance, as well as communicating with a smartphone. The Google Glass app will offer all this functionality and provide further features including vehicle health reports, diagnostic and maintenance alerts, and temperature and air conditioning controls; all accessible remotely via Google Glass.
The technology also opens up a variety of other possibilities, such as the ability to search for directions as you walk to the car, then sending them to the vehicle so the journey is pre-planned in advance. It may also be possible, for example, to undertake repairs while the instruction manual is loaded onto Google Glass, keeping both hands free to carry out the work.
At the moment the technology is being developed to allow customers to access information and communicate with the vehicle remotely, and it is not intended that customers would wear Google Glasses while driving. However, the integration of this technology could lead to the possibility of multiple displays in the driver’s line of sight, and it will be interesting to see how this develops in the coming years.
Connectivity in vehicles has become a hotbed of innovation over the last few years, and with consumers coming to demand it as a number one selling point, the race is on for manufacturers to introduce new technology quicker than ever before.