Watch for progress on connected cars

Auto & Audio December 12, 2017 01:00

By SPECIAL TO THE NATION

JUST weeks before the New Year begins and both the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the Auto Show in Detroit bring us the most recent tech visions and trends for the automotive industry.



But which new things will really become relevant in the coming year, and which won’t? Marcello Tamietti and Gabriel Seiberth, automotive experts at consultancy firm Accenture, think that 2018 will mostly be about algorithms for the connected car. 

For Tamietti, connected cars aren’t quite where they could be yet: drivers can’t use many of the Web-enabled vehicles’ features while driving, which renders some of them almost useless. And many of the existing in-vehicle apps are nowhere as good as the software drivers have on their smartphones. That’s in part because their user interface isn’t as sophisticated, and in part because they aren’t as “smart” as the apps on our phones yet. If Siri knows that you’re headed for your office – why doesn’t your car’s navigation software? 

Most of this has to do with how data is being brought into, and used in, the car, explains Tamietti: “The connectivity is there, the computing power is there, and the data are there – connected cars create up to 25 GB of them in an hour. What’s been missing, however, are means to interact with that data in seamless and smart ways that enhance the driving experience without distracting drivers. That’s what artificial intelligence will change.”

For Tamietti, a breakthrough of “in-vehicle” AI and algorithm solutions will be the most important next step in auto tech in the coming 12 months. “Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home are already being brought into some models,” he said. “This means that these cars will become ‘third places’, closely integrated with drivers’ offices and homes.” 

More importantly, the integration of these now-commonplace AIs would bring machine learning and predictive capabilities into our cars, enabling them to personalise our driving experience. Gabriel Seiberth says: “From the set-up of your car seat to in-vehicle infotainment and app-preferences – these AIs will learn what you need, and then configure the car’s services accordingly.” 

And the few remaining things which we might need to set-up or configure ourselves will be configured through voice-commands. No more need to push levers and buttons, no more need to take our hands off the wheel. 

But the AI breakthrough isn’t the only new trend that’s Tamietti’s and Seiberth’s list of 2018 predictions. For the wider industry, the expect to see the following.

Predictive and personalised: Smarter cars also enable new digital services around prediction. “Predictive parking,” for example, will enable connected cars to extrapolate where the next free parking space will be when you arrive at your destination. And “predictive vehicle maintenance” will turn the entire after sales business on its head, says Seiberth. “After sales will go from interval-based – a new toothed belt every 60.000 kilometres – to needs-based: the car will predict when a part will fail, and then book a maintenance slot with a repair shop, and order the spare parts – all by itself.” But predictions might go even further than that, suggests Tamietti: “We’ll even see ‘self-configuring cars’ very soon – vehicles that can predict driver preferences, weather and road conditions, and tweak their configuration – like suspension settings – accordingly.” 

A password for your car: With so many services becoming available – and with AI needing ways to be able to learn more about drivers and their preferences – a well-known digital service will finally come to our cars as well: digital identity management or, in other words: a user account and password for your car. Seiberth says: “User authentication will be critical here – for personalisation, services like media or email, and payments. 

Even more IoT, cloud: When it comes to industry digitisation and the IoT, automakers tend to be far ahead of other manufacturers. But that doesn’t mean that they’re all set already. Tamietti expects the OEMs to continue investing in IoT and cloud tech capabilities, for example in areas like supply chain management and IT. For him, it’s all about “agile”: “The more connected cars become, the more high-performing and agile a manufacturers IT infrastructure must become. 

Analytics “at the edge”: Another area where OEMs will step up their already existing game is analytics: Be it in the plant, in cars or in marketing and sales – capabilities around extracting value from large amounts of data are key, and are still being built. Seiberth says: “If you think about edge analytics – the capability of embedding analytics routines in routers and other edge devices within machines or cars – that has really just started.

RPA and automation: All their analytics and AI prowess will also help OEMs streamline and automate many parts of their businesses, especially in areas like finance, HR, marketing and sales, or even customer service. “AI-enabled automation can streamline many kinds of repetitive tasks”, says Seiberth, “we will certainly see more of that in 2018.” 

AR everywhere: As far as Tamietti is concerned, virtual reality will very much stay where it currently is – “the technology has its uses”, he says, “but augmented and mixed-reality have proven much more useful”. Which is why he expects to see even more AR use cases in construction, engineering, marketing and maybe even next-gen heads-up displays in cars. “

Blockchain to the rescue: With so much more connectivity and software entering cars and carmakers’ organisations, both IT and data security become an even more pressing concern. Fortunately, there’s another technology that might help with that: Seiberth believes that blockchain, the encryption solution using public “ledgers” to secure digital payments, might very soon be used to authenticate drivers, cars and car parts, data transmissions, and other parts of the digital puzzle that is the “digitised” auto industry. 

This article was contributed by consultancy firm Accenture.