As consumers continue to demand more technology in their cars, automakers and technology companies need to cooperate more closely to ensure the rapid and smooth development of cars that are fully connected to the Internet.
That was the message at the Los Angeles Auto Show last week, when Ford global marketing chief Jim Farley said that the automotive and technology sectors are “at a tipping point,” where they need to work together better than they have to speed the roll-out of the services in cars that allow consumers to drive safely and interact with their favorite apps or other technologies, Reuters reports
“The car companies have to change and the tech companies have to change,” Farley said.
On the one hand, Ford’s push to offer seamless Internet “connected-car” features such as voice-activated commands, navigation software and entertainment features has had mixed results. While the carmaker is improving its in-car technology, Microsoft, Google and other software firms will ultimately determine how well web-connected features work, Farley said, an AutoNews article reports.
“It’s important for us to acknowledge that the real value for customers with the connected car is outside of our auto industry,” Farley said. “For the car companies, it’s pretty clear the mobile digital economy is not in our hands.”
Calling the car “the ultimate mobile device,” Farley said certain apps like navigation are endemic to the car experience and automakers will need to incorporate them really well. At Ford, they recognize the very large gap between customers’ experience on their phone, and how great that functions, and in-car traditional navigation experience, Farley said. So if the navigation system works so well on the phone, nobody would pay for it in the car, he said.
“But it’s unsafe using phones in a car and that’s the reality,” Farley said.
That means improvements on the part of Ford and other automakers include developing more “open architecture” for apps and smartphone integration. But tech companies have to change their approach as well, particularly by being more flexible in the interface they use, Farley said. They can no longer impose their interfaces on the car user, he also said.
As an article in Detroit News notes, Ford bet years ago on its Sync infotainment system, which allows drivers to use devices such as smartphones to use apps and make phone calls through their car. Ford has sold 10 million vehicles with the Sync system. Be that as it may, Ford also is working to bring more built-in capabilities to its vehicles and beamed-in solutions that run applications through the cloud, Farley said.
“For most customers, the mobile device that they already have is going to be perfectly sufficient to run a great number of apps that—with better integration with the car—will be intuitive and safer than today,” Farley said.
The point that stands out the most to me was safety. As more cities and states ban the use of cellphones in various zones or entire cities, it will become a larger issue because people will still want to use their phones for various apps. Seamless connectivity between cellphones and vehicles would--hopefully--deliver a safer user experience.