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January 07, 2016

Today's Technology: Making Cars Fun, Smart, Social

Ipad-technology-iStock_000075165377-ponsulakAutomakers spend years planning innovative technology for future car models. I frequently attend industry conferences to gain insight into what car buyers can expect down the road.

At the Telematics West Coast conference held in San Diego, automakers, analysts, suppliers, service providers and innovators discussed car tech issues of connectivity, infotainment, apps and innovation in future vehicles.


1_jaguar_land_rover-vonsor_incubatorAutomotive Innovation with Start-ups, Silicon Valley

Automakers are seeking innovation from software developers and the Silicon Valley. Rudolf Streif, system architect, Jaguar Land Rover, said, "The user experience and connectivity to devices matters in cars."

Streif also explained that Jaguar recently opened its technology incubator in Portland, Ore., to encourage, promote and support new software-based automotive technologies from U.S. technology start-ups. Portland has become one of the fastest growing tech hubs in the U.S.

According to Jaguar Land Rover, a start-up named Vonsor is its pilot innovation incubator program and Vonsor's system is currently under development with the Jaguar Land Rover engineering team in Portland. Vonsor lets drivers take live footage from an array of cameras inside and outside the vehicle, anything from off-roading to family time fun -- and be able to edit together the footage on the vehicle's touchscreen and share on social media.

Automaker BMW, to encourage innovation and to source new technology, became a venture capitalist and invested in new technology, noted Mark Platshon, senior adviser, BMW iVentures. In fact, Liz Kerton, executive director, Autotech Council, reported that 18 automakers currently have offices the Silicon Valley.

The Autotech Council receives hundreds of automotive technology pitches, as well as looks for new products when they are requested by automakers.

Wifi_on_map-iStock_000051209964_doomuWireless Updates and Longer Connectivity

A future technology that drivers will see is Over-the-Air (OTA) updates of vehicle software for cars equipped with cellular wireless connections such as 3G or 4G LTE.

OTA updates send software to the car wirelessly so that the car software is updated with bug fixes or feature changes. Currently, some automakers require car owners to go to the dealer to have their software updated or in some cases owners can update software using a USB drive.

Rich Shannon, telematics division manager, Honda North America says that Honda may offer OTA updates in very small steps and OTA updates may be an appealing feature for the 2020 Accord or later.

On the other hand, Cason Grover, senior group manager, cross carline planning at Hyundai said "The question with Over-the-Air updates is not a question of how -- but when."

There is also good news for drivers who don't like paying for connected car services, such as remote start, remote unlocking, vehicle health reports and other connected apps or features. The new trend automakers are looking to offer is connectivity for free for longer periods of time. BMW offers connective services for 10 years, notes Jeffrey S. Hannah, director, SBD North America.

Smartphone_w_gps_navigation-iStock_000055781634_alexey_boldinMore Natural Conversational Dialogs from Infotainment

Pavan Mathew, senior director, automotive content service strategy at Nuance, showed an example of more natural voice interaction with car infotainment systems. The car acts as an intelligent assistant and anticipates what content the driver wants. For instance, when the driver asks "What team won the game, last night?" The personal assistant asks once, "What team score do you want?" Then thereafter, the system automatically knows the correct team the driver prefers.

More Smartphone Integration from Smartphone Systems

Increasingly, automakers are integrating smartphone systems, such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay into their vehicles.

Frankie James, managing director, GM ASTVO, General Motors said people want to bring Apple and Google smartphones into their cars. More smartphones are sold than cars every year, therefore it is easier to adapt the cars to the smartphone user experience. GM is the first mainstream automaker to offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay across most of its brand models starting with the 2016 model year.

Hyundai's Grover mentioned that Hyundai wants to embrace Android Auto, because it is a strong brand for a younger generation.

"If Android Auto or Apple CarPlay control the infotainment, automakers can concentrate on the car design itself," said Grover.

"At Telematics West Coast this year automakers and Silicon Valley innovators came together to tackle challenging issues. The cooperation and sharing of knowledge will ultimately help create better connectivity and infotainment experiences for consumers," concluded Greg Basich, senior analyst, global automotive practice, Strategy Analytics.


Lynn_Walford-headshot-small-- Lynn Walford, Motor Matters

Lynn Walford has been writing and editing for over two decades. Her credits include Yahoo Autos, Investor’s Business Daily, TopSpeed, TechHive, Automotive IT News and Wireless Week. She currently is the editor of AUTO Connected Car News, covering new automotive technology. She is honored to be a Knight Digital Media News Entrepreneur Fellow. Walford learned to drive in her sister’s 1967 Mustang convertible. Her first car was an Alfa Romeo Guilietta Sprint, followed by a 1965 Thunderbird convertible. Her next car was a 1964 Alfa Romeo Guilia Spyder which led to a series of Toyotas and other “more reliable cars. She currently drives an all-electric 2013 Nissan Leaf. Walford resides in the Los Angeles area.


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