Consumers Are in the Connected Car’s Driver Seat in 2015
Consumers Are in the Connected Car’s Driver Seat in 2015

Since last year’s CES, the connected car has been a hot topic for the automotive industry and consumers alike. The rise of innovative technology along with better connectivity capabilities have set the stage for an in-car experience that will rival the one you can have in the comfort of your living room.

Car manufacturers and technology companies are racing to provide the best solution that will further usher in the Internet-of-Things with cars as a key part of the infrastructure. In fact, a recent report reveals that, by 2020, 90 percent of vehicles will have built in connectivity.

This year alone, three giants – Microsoft, Google and Apple – have announced their forthcoming “connected car” platforms. Apple already has CarPlay, Google seems to have something in the works with its Open Automotive Alliance, and Microsoft revealed its “Windows for the car.” They all aim to bring the functionality of your mobile device right to your vehicles center consul and we’ll soon find out who takes the cake.

But it’s more than mobile. It’s a large growing market full of infotainment, apps designed for cars, digital diagnostics, monitoring services for new drivers and enhanced navigation systems among other services, which is estimated to grow to nearly $270 billion by 2020. A giant leap from the $47 billion mark it’s at today. It will be interesting to see what developments are in store for the coming year, but it can be safe to expect consumer needs to be at their center.

Privacy and Consumer Controlled Data

Enterprises have disproportionately mined a greater amount of data than they use. But we may see changes as more companies find new ways to use data effectively. This year, mainstream media catapulted “data brokers” into the limelight, allowing consumers to know how their data is being used. It made consumers concerned about companies’ opaque practices, especially about what data is being collected and how it is being used.

There is an obvious disconnect between what marketers believe should be private and what the public is willing to share. In a Lyris survey, only 23 percent of marketers believed their customers were worried about privacy, when in fact 49 percent of consumers said they were “very concerned” about who scrutinizes their online activities and why. Inevitably, future conversations will continue to highlight the clash between consumer privacy and data gatekeepers.

Some argue that neither automakers nor tech companies should even have access to the data. But the worry is counterbalanced by the general concern that the benefit of the connected car will be restricted by the amount of data drivers are willing to disclose. Consequently, we may see consumers opt for a retrofit device that enables car connectivity and data collection with no initial ties to the market.

Leveraging Data for End-User Empowerment

The benefits data will incur for driver will drown the fear stemming from the possible over-share of connected cars and location data. Collected data could not only serve as a source for behavioral and hardware studies for marketers but can also be a way to get unprecedented yet highly intuitive information about the connected vehicle.

To illustrate, connected cars can even tell you how to become a better and safer driver. Monitoring devices can provide insight into bad driving habits by marking when there is rapid acceleration, hard braking and speeding and using that to provide practical advice for the next excursion. Worrying about new drivers could be a thing of the past as parents or guardians can maintain a watchful eye on young driver’s driving behaviors. In the rise of the connected car, 2015 will be about flipping perceptions, utilizing car data to offer meaningful rewards and put consumers in control.

Maintenance and the Connected Car

Additionally, by being able to source knowledge about their own data and driving behavior, connected car drivers are becoming empowered by their car ownership in an entirely new way.

For example, a direct relationship between the dealer and a repair shop will better allow people to maintain and service their car, and data sharing will eventually allow shops and dealerships companies to revolutionize how they interact with their customers. With newfound knowledge of what is plaguing customers and their cars, the mistrust and wariness traditionally associated with mechanics and car repair will subside. Applications will be able to provide you with the best resources and even let your predict what costs to expect before taking any steps to make repairs. In short, automotive ignorance will be a thing of the past.

Cost-Savings Abound

As I’ve noted above, and underlying affect of connected vehicles are the vast cost saving aspects it offers. New technologies will help consumers significantly reduce the costs of owning a car due to better driving, more cautious maintenance, and the management of fuel consumption. Imagine a car that will remember the last route you took to a destination and advise you on alternative, more fuel-efficient routes for the next time you take the trip.

Also, there is now an opportunity for retailers to connect with their customers like never before. If users are willing to share data retailers could offer better deals and cater specifically to demonstrated consumer needs. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as consumer and retailer relationships continue to grow.

The Big Question: Aftermarket vs. OEM?

The connected car is on the rise, and it will become the standard as it permeates the automotive market. But not every new car will be “connected” and some drivers just prefer to integrate technology into their lives at their own pace. For those that prefer and employ older vehicles, the need for interoperability will also be key. Circumstance or preference should not be a deterrent for the future of driving. As a result, interoperable aftermarket devices will become popular as everyone, regardless of car, will look to enjoy the general benefits (cost savings, location sharing, maintenance alerts, etc.) connectivity offers at an accessible price point. Everyone should be able to drive into the future.

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