Vehicles today remind me of smartphones on wheels. When you get down to it, they are computers capable of software upgrades, navigation, sensing, and even entertainment through subscriptions or mobile apps. Automotive manufacturers are realizing that many young consumers are preferring frictionless and fully digital customer journeys as opposed to multiple lengthy in-person visits to the dealership. Of course, this does not mean that everyone wants to purchase vehicles online with 10 clicks, but it does mean that we must create experiences that modern consumers have come to expect.
Rapidly changing consumer preferences beg the question: how can OEMs and dealers stay relevant and continue providing top-notch customer experience? We’ve already been seeing innovations like virtual test drives, where a consumer can get a good feeling of what it is like to drive a particular vehicle online before visiting in person. This digital offering proves that many OEMs today understand they must give consumers choices and be able to satisfy their preferences.
Extending Digital-First to Vehicles
Beyond digital offerings from the dealership, the vehicles themselves must become digital-first. We all remember when new vehicles had internet installed, setting the foundation for many capabilities to come. Not only can drivers now use GPS navigation, but also connect their vehicles to their phones, access entertainment, and work on the go. Many drivers now take voice calls and texting through their vehicles while driving for granted. Yet, this is still just the beginning and there will be a lot more change to come.
Adding Vehicles to IoT
Naturally, what’s next is having your vehicle be connected to a comprehensive Internet of Things (IoT), communicating with other vehicles, buildings, infrastructure, and more. Connected vehicles will dramatically change the experience of driving, impacting the way we think about traffic, accidents, and commuting, and in some ways changing major aspects of our lives. From fleet management to school buses, IoT will touch everything transportation related. It will even improve the maintenance and management of fleets and commercial vehicles.
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At the same time, these smart vehicles can communicate with other connected vehicles (V2V) over the public/federally owned dedicated short-range communication spectrum (DSRC), through cellular-based communications technology (C-V2X), and with smart city infrastructure (V2I) through machine-to-machine or IoT protocols. These technological capabilities are an important part of a larger connected future, and customers will begin to expect these types of connected services more often moving forward.
Connected Vehicles Will Completely Transform Transportation
Imagine having vehicles that could communicate with each other and eliminate a crash from happening. Then imagine a driver able to navigate an impending pothole because of their vehicle’s sensors, saving them from a costly repair. Imagine a vehicle that can automatically navigate you to the best parking, saving on gas and time spent. Finally, imagine vehicles and infrastructure that can communicate to optimize traffic routes, avoiding congestion and improving commute times. The other day while I was frantically trying to get to work for an early meeting with one of my bosses, there was a traffic accident on the highway. My navigation system rerouted me seamlessly to another route and I was able to get to my meeting on time.
This automotive technology is a game changer for a better future. The impact on road trips and daily commutes alone is enough to excite. So much potential to create so much. I have been on the Internet since 1995, at the forefront of transitioning print publications to online publications. Also, I never thought that one day, vehicles, infrastructure, and buildings would all be able to communicate and connect. I never realized that what we were doing back in 1995 that seemed so monumental was really quite primitive and just the beginning. Funny, because something tells me we are still at the beginning and so much great stuff is right around the corner. This is from a guy that is still gushing over wireless Apple car play in my new Ford Edge.
Nearly two decades later, I’m building strategic positions based on automotive innovation like connected vehicles. I am looking forward to helping OEMs navigate automotive connectivity and help position them as leaders in this space. There is so much to do and OEMs will need to adapt, transition and leverage the new normal as they truly extend their great manufacturing companies to mobility.
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