Drivers want their cars to get to know them better

Younger drivers want in-car access to their smartphone apps

telematics dashboard
Creative Commons

Consumers want their vehicles to anticipate their personal technology demands and to provide the same functionality as their mobile devices, according to a survey.

Because of the technology gap in vehicles, consumers are more likely to use their smartphones to access apps and information while driving, most commonly apps for navigation (54%) and music (44%).

The survey, titled "Automotive Connectivity and the Generational Divide," was performed by Lochbridge, an IT services company. Conducted online in June through Google Consumer Surveys, it had 1,490 respondents between the ages of 18 and 65.

wish cars knews them better graphic Lochbridge

Drivers want their cars to know be aware of their preferences and learn as they drive.

The survey found millennials want access to more than navigation in their vehicles; they want smartphone apps and mobile entertainment, too. Eighty percent of the respondents under the age of 35 indicated that they wished their vehicles better understood their tech preferences, could predict what they needed and could guide them appropriately.

"More than three in four young adults -- ages 18 to 35 -- say they want in-vehicle innovation that goes beyond access to applications. They want cars that know them personally," Bob Kennedy, vice president of Lochbridge's Automotive group, said in a statement. "Millennials are always on and always connected."

Not surprisingly, 53% of the respondents said they viewed mobile technology as being more advanced than in-vehicle technology.

Automakers have long recognized that they can't keep up with the pace of mobile technology because vehicle development cycles can last three years or more. One possible solution would be to create telematics platforms based on open source code with modular hardware that could be updated periodically.

Mobile device integration is among the most difficult issues facing the auto industry today, according to Mark Boyadjis, an analyst specializing in in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems at IHS Automotive.

Millennials want ccess mobile apps graphic Lochbridge

Millennials want access to their mobile apps while driving.

Mobile devices need to communicate with in-vehicle systems, but those interfaces don't always work well, depending on the type of device and operating system a consumer uses.

One of the main reasons for the limited functionality of most in-vehicle systems is that car manufacturers use proprietary software developed by third-party suppliers to power their information and entertainment systems, meaning car-based apps are also proprietary.

"If gaps exist between automotive and mobile technologies, they turn to their smartphones for in-vehicle information and application needs," Kennedy said.

Having an open-source IVI operating system would create a reusable platform consisting of core services, middleware and open application layer interfaces that eliminate the redundant efforts to create separate proprietary systems. By developing an open-source platform, carmakers could share upgrades as they arrive.

Automakers could then focus on differentiating their infotainment systems through their user interfaces, which only make up about 5% to 10% of the software in the IVI systems.

"We're leveraging essentially an $11 billion investment already made in Linux by many other companies including IBM and Intel," said Rudi Streif, who leads the Automotive Grade Linux workgroup for the Linux Foundation. "We can essentially get the platform for free from a royalty sense. Of course, we have to spend resources to make it work in our particular platforms."

Three automakers that have rolled out Linux-based platforms on a limited number of vehicle models are GM's Cadillac division, which uses Linux in its Cue IVI; Tesla, which offers a 17-in. IVI screen in its Model S all-electric cars; and Toyota, which uses a Linux-based IVI in the 2014 Lexus IS.

The younger the respondents to the Lochbridge survey were, the greater the likelihood that they would express a desire for in-vehicle access to mobile apps: 64% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 indicated that they want mobile app access, but that figure dropped to 32% for 45-to-54-year-olds and to 23% among 55-to-64-year-olds.

smartphone use graphic Lochbridge

People mainly use their smartphones for navigation and music while driving.

"I think what we're going to see is an ecosystem of services because it's very hard to anticipate what all the changes are going to be throughout the life of a vehicle," Bart Brotsos, technology sales manager for Oracle's automotive group, said while participating in a panel discussion at the Telematics Detroit conference earlier this year.

Brotsos said IVI systems should be able to "self-personalize," meaning they should learn drivers' wants and behaviors so they can feed them information that's appropriate.

The Lochbridge survey found that when it comes to what millennials want, most respondents indicated they would pay extra for some things more than others.

Almost 75% of young adults surveyed indicated they would pay more for a vehicle that makes them safer as drivers. Overall, 67% of the respondents said that.

The study, however, found that age makes a difference when it comes to who wants in-vehicle technology. While 61% of survey respondents under the age of 45 indicated that they want to safely and easily access applications and information while in a vehicle, only 25% of those over the age of 45 indicated the same.

Jonathan Tarlton, a senior manager for streaming music service Spotify, said older drivers tend to associate the term "interactive" with "complicated," and what they want is less distraction while driving.

"When they're seeing different apps and things plugged into screens, and listening to music... on their smartphone, this is a new concept," Tarlton said. "That's a big barrier for the 45-plus demographic."

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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