Vehicle manufacturers wire advanced tech features into mechanical systems and infotainment centers to transform the drive into a digitized and high-tech journey. As smartphones serve as necessary devices in daily life, the auto industry evolved to integrate advanced technology systems that were compatible with mobile devices and assisted the driving experience.
The industry and vehicle manufacturers now offer interactive automotive solutions that magnify the user experience and increase the safety of the driver and passengers. These solutions include:
- Connected car technology
- Automotive software
- In-car entertainment systems
- Telematics systems
- Automotive IoT
What is Connected Car Technology?
Connected car technology is now included in most—if not all—modern vehicle models. This technology allows the vehicle’s system to connect to the internet, and some vehicles offer connectivity through a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN).
Cars also offer connectivity through compatibility with mobile devices like smartphones. The driver can plug their device into a USB port in the car’s infotainment system. The system then pairs with the phone and allows the driver to place calls and send texts hands-free, stream music and more. Some drivers also use their smartphone’s GPS systems via their phone’s infotainment screen.
Connected car technology is now ubiquitous to the modern drive. Even base-model vehicles might offer basic connectivity and smartphone compatibility.
Automotive Software Systems
Vehicles now operate via advanced computer systems. Instead of popping the hood to investigate an issue, mechanics plug the car into a device that reads error codes and can help diagnose why a car might be experiencing problems. Today’s vehicles are so reliant on computer technology that the recent microchip shortage impacted the production of some vehicle models.
Automotive software can program safety systems, infotainment features and more. Vehicle manufacturers might use unique proprietary software system(s) to power and enhance their vehicle models.
McKinsey reported that “By 2030, the global automotive software and electronics market is expected to reach $462 billion….” The rise of automotive software is, in part, due to the increase of electric vehicles, which rely heavily on software systems as part of their functionality. However, the growth of this software segment also is associated with the increase of safety systems, connectivity and other systems.
McKinsey explained that “…Infotainment, connectivity, security, and connected services will also grow at pace with the overall software market, becoming the second-largest software market by 2030.”
In-Car Entertainment Systems Enhance the Driving Experience
Forget the old car stereo and CD player of those long gone eras; even MP3 players are outdated. Today’s cars feature in-car entertainment systems that connect with mobile devices that allow the driver to stream music from their playlist. These entertainment systems can include satellite radio, too.
Infotainment system screens are compatible with smartphones to allow the screen to show GPS systems or other functionalities. The compatibility with smartphones and devices also allows the driver to place calls via voice command and even dictate text messages.
Some car brands include a built-in personalized virtual assistant. This assistant can respond to voice commands ensuring the driver never takes their eyes off the road.
Automotive Telematics Systems
Telematics systems also are included in many new fleet vehicles. What are telematics systems? These systems allow the car to be tracked. These systems could be included in standard cars, but they are most common in fleet vehicles for businesses that need to track each vehicle.
A telematics system works a bit like the Find My app via an Apple iPhone. Each vehicle in a fleet can be tracked via GPS data to show a manager or company owner the car’s exact location. These systems can be used to ensure that technicians don’t take their company vehicle for personal excursions and to better understand the movements of each vehicle.
The Internet of Things (IoT) transforms the daily experience; this technology helps create a smart home by allowing appliances, lights and other gadgets to be controlled via an app on a mobile device. Even an oven could be remotely preheated using a smartphone app.
Vehicles also include IoT. Examples include safety systems that use sensors to detect a car in a driver’s blind spot or even a pedestrian or bicycle up ahead.
However, automotive IoT has the potential to become more intricate. Nissan is currently working on Invisible to Visible (I2V) technology, which will allow the driver to visualize avatars of friends, family or even driving instructions when they wear special glasses. In addition, this technology lets windows transform to clear skies even on dreary days. I2V also will feature more advanced safety capabilities.
Other Unique Interactive Automotive Solutions
The auto industry offers many more unique capabilities that help transform the drive and elevate the user experience (UX). Most drivers might take for granted that their car now offers augmented reality technology built into the safety systems.
Every car now must be equipped with a backup camera; this is a mandatory standard feature that can help reduce the incidence of accidents and can aid drivers in getting out of a tight parking spot. The rear images captured by these cameras appear on the infotainment screen; in addition, the screen also might show gridlines to illustrate the turning radius of the car. These digital gridline images are an example of augmented reality.
Other manufacturers offer high-end augmented reality windshields that show directional arrows indicating a turn, the car’s speed and other data, too. These unique technology features not only help increase driver safety but they also elevate the user experience.
The Future of Interactive Automotive Solutions?
The future for the automotive industry might lead to fully autonomous vehicles. While some electric vehicles (EVs) offer some self-driving capabilities, these tech features don’t make the car self-driving. Driving systems that enable the car to drive without the full intervention of the driver are not completely autonomous; drivers must be aware and in control. These systems could still make an error and drivers should not and cannot rely on them.
A fully autonomous vehicle will require functionalities and capabilities far beyond what any car currently offers. However, autonomous taxis or shuttles are currently being tested in some markets. In fact, Amazon offers Zoox, which is a self-driving taxi service; engadget reported that Zoox is used to shuttle employees in California.
The auto industry is still far from delivering fully autonomous vehicles for consumers, though. In order for autonomous vehicles to be a reality, each vehicle will need to understand traffic laws, communicate with other vehicles, and perhaps even interact with signs and lights. The capabilities will need to be far beyond what auto manufacturers currently offer, but fully self-driving vehicles could be the future.
One hurdle that manufacturers need to jump over before even pursuing autonomous technology is the perfection of the electric vehicle. While EVs are becoming more popular, they have not yet been fully embraced by consumers.
The issues for EVs include problems with range, lack of adequate charging infrastructure and a high price tag. While the cost of EV models is starting to become a bit more reasonable, the Chevrolet Bolt EV is the most affordable and starts at $26,500 for the base model. The Bolt can get an estimated range of 259 miles, but range for electric vehicles can be negatively impacted by many driving factors like using the heat and air conditioning, driving fast, and even cold temperatures.
Charging station infrastructure also impacts the popularity of electric vehicles. In areas that have a high EV adoption rate (like California), charging stations could be plentiful. However, in other areas the options for public stations could be sparse. Some EV owners also discover that not all stations are fully functional.
It also takes more time for an EV to recharge than it does for a standard vehicle to refuel. Most cars can be fueled in a few minutes. However, charging times (especially at public stations) could vary considerably. Some stations could take hours to fully replenish a dead battery. This means that EV owners who are traveling long distances need to adjust their travel time to include several long charging stops.
In areas where the winter season means brutal cold weather, electric motors (and the batteries that power them) might not perform well. In fact, cold weather could greatly cut the range of the vehicle. A car with an estimated range of 200 miles might only be able to drive a fraction of that distance on a full charge in cold weather. According to Consumer Reports, driving an EV at 70 MPH in cold temperatures results in a 25 percent decrease in the car’s range. In addition, the site noted that short trips (with many stops) in cold weather could drain the range even more—by up to 50 percent!
While full adoption rates of EVs might require the auto industry to perfect the range issues and for the country to improve charging infrastructures (and technology), the future of the driving journey might still be powered by electric. However, for those who aren’t yet ready to go electric, look for more tech features to be included in new car models; these systems might eventually include more augmented reality functionalities to improve the drive and make the journey more enjoyable.