The Vehicle: An Emerging Digital Platform

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Consumers enjoy being digitally connected. Some feel “safer” with a communication channel always ready, while others like having access to the world’s collective knowledge whenever needed. 

Look no further than the prevalence of smartphones for evidence.

This desire to be connected often extends into time spent on the road, but of course, using smartphones while driving is unsafe. Technology innovators see that as an opportunity.

From Bluetooth smartphone syncing to LTE and 5G hotspots, vehicles are quickly becoming the newest digital platform. What began with OnStar and now includes built-in music and video streaming ability, the future of connected vehicle technology is already on a light-speed path to deeper commercial use. Consumers and businesses alike are excited about current trends and developments to come.

Let’s take a look at the recent changes behind this technological shift.

The IoT and telematics create connected cars

Between rapidly developing Internet of Things (IoT) devices and telematics technology, “connected cars” which communicate with one another, drivers, mechanics, and central hubs are slated to become the new norm. The IoT collects, transfers, and interprets data among devices without human interaction using processors, sensors, and communication hardware.

Ninety-four million IoT connected cars are expected to hit the road in 2021, accounting for 82% of all cars shipped that year.

For cars which aren’t already connected, aftermarket hardware is available to bring “dumb cars” up to date. You can bet consumers will be signing on for the immersive experience this connectivity offers.

This change won’t only benefit personal vehicle owners. Commercial fleets, public buses and trains, and even roads are already being digitized. New Orleans RTA’s GoMobile App for riders, for example, provides real-time bus and streetcar locations, estimated arrivals, and service alerts about delays and detours, thanks to on-board IoT and telematics devices.

Amazon’s new shipping service allows customers to track the location of the vehicle their package is on in real-time, so they know when it’s right around the corner.

Developments like this are enabling the transformation to a more convenient, informed, and lucrative automotive future; one that consumers and businesses alike stand to benefit from. Consumers easily access real-time, detailed information about their shipments, rideshares, and personal vehicles while businesses use data and automation to cut costs and generate more revenue.

New digital platform: here we come.

Connected cars as a digital platform

What makes something a digital platform? According to Peter Bendor-Samuel at The Enterprisers Project, a digital platform is comprised of multiple “engines” for data ingestion, machine learning, analytics, and other tools. Most importantly, these engines are aligned and integrated to create a better user experience, whether that user is a driver, a mechanic, or someone holding a smartphone tracking their rideshare.

“Digital platforms cut across traditional organizational structures, silos, policies, and technology investments to enable the new operating model. They force a different organization, a different talent model, a different mindset, and a different set of policies and processes,” Bendor-Samuel explains.

That description sounds a lot like the emerging vehicle technology already here and on the horizon. There are a number of IoT and telematics innovations and breakthroughs helping to transform vehicles into parts of a larger digital ecosystem.

Fleet management, road safety, and consumer applications continue to see intensified development.

Maintenance monitoring platforms

As an example, IoT devices can now “inspect” vehicles in real-time. We’re already familiar with check engine lights and notifications for low tire pressure. Mechanics can even plug into vehicle software to discover what part of an engine needs corrections and fine-tuning. However, technology is gaining more ability to identify specific issues and notify the vehicle’s driver, mechanic, and even other vehicles on the road in real-time as issues arise.

Fleet managers can use this technology to manage maintenance for multiple vehicles. They can do this and more with just a single electronic monitoring device. Tracking vehicle age, fuel performance, braking, and speed helps keep vehicles and drivers safe. The data collected can also inform manufacturers about ways to build better vehicles and implement software to integrate those vehicles into the digital ecosystem.

Maintenance monitoring is just one of many fleet management transformations occurring, thanks to the IoT and telematics. For example, fleet managers also benefit from geofencing, which allows them to see whether a vehicle has gone off an approved route.

Add to this ability the promising future of driverless vehicles, and thousands of commercial shipments could soon be monitored by just a few people. In terms of cost reduction, this is an exciting prospect for businesses. Consumers also stand to benefit through personal vehicle maintenance alerts and improved, informed services from vehicle-based businesses.

Sharing of information across these multiple parties forms a data web, and a new digital platform: the connected car.

Linking connected cars to smarter, safer cities

Many drivers today use GPS to monitor traffic conditions and reroute accordingly. They also receive alerts about accidents affecting real-time traffic. With driverless vehicles on the horizon, things are about to get even more immersive.

Existing internal vehicle systems, like automatic parking and rerouting to avoid congestion, open the door to vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology. Tesla and Nissan have already built on existing digital vehicle features with the Tesla App and Nissan Nismo, and Progressive Snapshot uses V2X to provide discounts on insurance premiums through safe driver programs.

Google, Audi, and Daimler have taken this progress to the next level, developing self-driving vehicle initiatives. Tesla Autopilot, of course, is another notable example.

This isn’t just about the “cool factor” of futuristic vehicles, however. Digitized vehicles act as a source of information—not just traffic conditions, but road and weather conditions, available parking spaces, and more that can be shared and leveraged in our global digital ecosystem.

Who doesn’t want more data at their fingertips—or on their dashboard?

Safety is a top concern when cities consider self-driving vehicles, and planning transportation infrastructure changes with their impending arrival is smart. With IoT technology, vehicles can communicate road hazards and reckless drivers. Internal sensors can assist with the management of drivers who are impaired, falling asleep, or experiencing a medical emergency.

The safety of pedestrians should be a priority. Geofences can help keep commercial vehicles away from high foot traffic areas, as well as quiet areas and school zones.

These interconnected vehicle software platforms are poised to deliver more than monitoring and automation. Not only will we benefit from more data, but new applications of that data will contribute to safer driving conditions.

We can look forward to having better information about navigating unexpected driver behavior. Before, we knew when a driver swerved out of their lane. Now, we also know that the driver did so to avoid an obstacle in the road. Vehicle intercommunication can warn other drivers in the area about that obstacle and the vehicles avoiding it.

Of course, everyone knows that technology is imperfect. Millions of cars are recalled each year, many for software glitches. Fortunately, innovators are addressing this issue as well. Over-the-air (OTA) vehicle software updates via LTE or 5G reduce the need to bring a vehicle to the shop, and the chance that someone will simply ignore a recall and keep a dangerous vehicle on the road.

Avoiding trips to the shop means saved time, effort, and fuel for consumers and businesses alike. When updating vehicle software becomes as common as updating software on your laptop, it becomes obvious how connected vehicles act as digital platforms. They hold updatable software that makes everyone’s lives easier, safer, and better.

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Manufacturers’ place in the self-driving, ride-hailing ecosystem

OTA software updates keep manufacturers in contact with their vehicles, unlike the old days where a vehicle was sold, and the buyer was all but forgotten until they were back in the market for a car. This connection offers its own platform for manufacturers to track customer usage and preferences.

This is important to manufacturers as personal vehicle ownership becomes less attractive. Between the cost of a vehicle, insurance, gas, maintenance, and possibly paid parking, many urban consumers are opting for rideshare. The future of personal vehicle ownership is unclear: will owners rent vehicles out for rideshare instead of parking at home and work? Will there be a movement away from personal vehicles and towards mass transit as the latter improves thanks to telematics?

It’s hard to say, but one thing is clear: Vehicles of the future will be overwhelmingly connected and part of a digital ecosystem, communicating with one another, mechanics, managers, and learning machines while on the road.

How do manufacturers adjust? Brand loyalty becomes important, as does keeping up with developments, since cars tend to outlast their technology. There are plenty of older, road-safe vehicles on the road without any software at all. Well-built vehicles last. Well-built technology evolves.

The importance of the manufacturer-reseller-end user relationship here cannot be ignored. In order for auto manufacturers to remain relevant, they will need loyal, “sticky” customers who trust an auto brand to keep up with the quickly evolving vehicle IoT and telematics technology landscape. They will also need strong relationships with software partners. Many software solutions exist to help smooth over this complex dynamic, adding to the growing ecosystem of interconnected technologies.

Self-driving vehicles are already on the road. Self-driving rideshare isn’t far, and the connectivity requirements for these are massive. GPS, radar, lidar, high-powered cameras, sonar, and lasers that can create and communicate an omnidirectional view of a vehicle’s surroundings—as well as software that can analyze all this data—is only the beginning.

These projects require artificial intelligence for self-learning, and technology that translates all of this into action like accelerating, braking, and steering.

It’s a lot to demand—but it’s happening. Google’s newest self-driving cars don’t even have steering wheels or pedals for human drivers. With these developments in mind, manufacturers need to think about who their customers are going to be just a few years from now. Those customers, of course, will demand vehicles as intuitive, enabled, and connected as any other digital platform.

Regulations spreading worldwide

The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) recently updated driver logging requirements for commercial drivers. Records of Duty Status (RODS), tracking driving time, mileage, and location, is now required to be logged electronically via telematics, Bluetooth, or local data transfer. Motor carriers are required to meet these new rules by December 16, 2019.

RODS ensure safety by making sure drivers aren’t spending so much time driving that they become fatigued. Using electronic logging devices (ELDs) means accurate tracking of driving time, mileage, real-time location, idling time, driving behavior, and more.

As of June 2019, the Canadian transport ministry has also announced new, similar regulations. The Transport Canada ELD mandate for commercial drivers comes into effect in 2021. Like the USDOT’s RODS regulation, it requires commercial drivers to switch from paper to ELDs in the next two years.

Changes like these only add fuel to the fire of the connected vehicle movement. Driverless vehicles on the horizon or not, ELDs are the new norm for commercial fleets. They will have to be a core consideration for vehicle IoT and telematics developers.

Clearly, regulatory activities along with innovation will be yet another catalyst for this emerging digital platform.

Virtual reality and vehicles: a small part of a larger paradigm shift

As man and machine become increasingly inextricable thanks to connectivity and the IoT, some innovators are finding ways to make car rides more immersive. For taxi passengers or children on long car rides, for example, Holoride provides stimulation and even nausea relief through virtual reality. Using an over-the-eyes headset, Holoride takes advantage of maps and real-time vehicle movements to transport riders to forests or outer space, with playable games at stops like crosswalks.

Holoride is just one example of a larger paradigm shift with big implications. From smart home ecosystems to 5G connectivity, we are experiencing what some call the fourth industrial revolution. As consumers become accustomed to things like augmented reality and mixed reality, the expectation that smart vehicle ecosystems and experiences resemble those they find in their smart homes will rise. This challenges vehicle-based businesses to continue to innovate to meet consumer demand.

As with any technological advance, what these new frontiers will look like is anyone’s guess. Perhaps passengers in self-driving cars will soon spend their ride in a mixed reality experience, or being productive via yet unexplored uses for the technology. What we do know is that the pillars of this forward movement will be connectivity and security, two increasingly interdependent and critical considerations in business success today.

A smart device you can drive

Smart devices are everywhere: in our pockets, homes, workplaces, and now, garages. IoT-enabled vehicles unlock new innovations like usage-based insurance, meeting the desire to pay only for what is used while staying always connected. Vehicles with built-in GPS and accident detection instill a sense of safety, and those that track driver behavior to unlock employer rewards or insurance discounts make roads safer for everyone.

What’s more, a car itself can be seen as just another IoT sensor: a spoke at the center of the vehicle ecosystem, collecting and sharing data for an intuitive, informative user experience for everyone from manufacturer, to driver, to mechanic, to owner.

This digital platform enables innovation as vehicles and their usage continue to evolve. As driverless cars become a reality, this will open up even more questions about ownership over the data vehicles generate, and what developments are still to come.

Tags: IoT Telematics

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