A platform for the future: what’s in store for the automotive sector?
The automotive sector has always been at the forefront of technological innovation.
From the way cars are made to the way they are maintained and driven, manufacturers, technology companies, governments and drivers have defined the driving and mobility experience we have today. Until a year ago, the roadmap was clear with a predictable evolution in vehicle safety, fuel efficiency, assisted driving technologies through to full autonomy.
But the COVID-19 pandemic threw a spanner in the works: in the first half of 2020, manufacturing and assembly plants had to halt operations. People stopped travelling due to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. Meanwhile, the logistics and delivery industries had to cope with unprecedented demand as home delivery boomed.
Governments also started looking at green technologies to help rebuild more sustainable and future-ready economies.
Thanks to digitalisation, which enables organisations to detect and respond rapidly to market challenges and opportunities, the automotive sector was quick to adapt; plans for electrification were pulled forward and fleet managers invested to optimise and transform their operations. And with daily commuting unlikely to be part of people lives even beyond the COVID-19 emergency, many drivers started considering new options created by shared mobility in their towns and cities.
The automotive industry has been an early digital adopter and already more than 70% of all cars built in 2020 had digital telematics capabilities. This means they are connected, and as such, they are part of a wide data-centric ecosystem that enables them to report on their condition but also access additional services, like theft attack detection or streaming of high-quality media.
These operations, made possible by access to data from the vehicles, let them become “platforms” for services as well as a means of transport. Platforms that put the safety, security and comfort of the car’s occupants, the pedestrians and the other vehicles’ users’ up front and centre.
However, whilst many consider the advantages of a connected car to be mainly around in-vehicle experience, the real benefits come when the car integrates within the wider connected transport ecosystem.
Security and comfort
The evolution in the automotive market has been astounding. Only a few decades ago users had to deal with vehicles that struggled to start on a cold day, radios were offered “as an optional extra” and electric vehicles were a distant dream. Today they have access to leather-clad, hi-tech, super-efficient low-emission vehicles that start every time with the press of a button. At the core of this evolution lies the dramatic increase in security and reliability that connected vehicles have made possible.
Services like stolen vehicle detection and tracking, automatic emergency calling in the event of an accident and seamless reporting of performance and maintenance requirements. Connecting vehicles also simplified life for users, with things like the ability to remotely lock and unlock a vehicle or purchase fuel without having to leave the car. But it’s important to also consider the future-proofing role digitalisation is having in accelerating the evolutionary process of the automotive sector.
The seat belt revolutionised vehicle safety. And so will 5G connectivity. When combined with in-vehicle telematics and technologies like V2X, it will dramatically enhance safety and security for the whole ecosystem, thanks to advanced warning of hidden obstacles, or the capability for vehicles to detect and avoid other road users.
It’s not just the industry that is changing. Users are too. Environmentally conscious, technically-savvy consumers are playing a key role in driving the transformation of the mobility and automotive industry.
Online sales of vehicles are redefining the way cars are sold, fully digitalising the car-buying experience and many drivers are reconsidering whether car sharing provides a more efficient way to access mobility in increasingly congested towns and cities. And again the connected car is set to play a key role in enabling new shared mobility models by bringing smartphone applications, networks and vehicle telematics together, so vehicles can be booked, paid for, insured, located and made accessible to the next driver in a fully digital way.
Within the user-centric mobility of the future, the customer experience will therefore need to marry the delivery of a seamless experience to the consumers with the ability to manage the complexity of the ecosystem.
The ecosystem matters
Today, vehicles are no longer standalone machines moving on roads. They are part of a connected ecosystem that is only going to expand thanks to a range of digital services that will in time make every journey greener, cleaner and safer.
In the era of convergence, technologies like 5G, Mobile Edge Computing and IoT combined with cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technologies will create the backbone of new mobility models, driving improved safety, reliability and freedom as part of a greener and more sustainable transport network. For this to happen, it is essential for the public and private sectors to come together and join forces to build the framework for the mobility of the future.
Tech Talk Podcast: Connected Cars And The Road To The Future
With vehicles becoming more sophisticated and more connected, it may well be that in a few years’ time, a car will look nothing like it does today. In the latest episode of Tech Talk with Vodacom, we speak with Dr Joost Kessels, Division Head Product Engineering - Volkswagen South Africa, about the future of Connected Cars. Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Anchor.