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Car or integrated solution for your mobility?

There wasn't much technology around our cars 30 years ago

EVEN 30 years ago, long after the first mass produced car and in the days of the likes of the box Vauxhall Viva or the Mark 1 Ford Escort Mexico, it was seats, the steering wheel and if you were lucky, a stereo.

There wasn't a lot of value in the interior of your new car. But move forward 30 years and there is a good chance up to half the value of your new car is electronic content.

Giuseppe Moder, digital marketing and customer relationship management director at Fiat Chrysler, said recently: “It doesn't make sense to be a car manufacturer any more. I need to give you an integrated solution for your mobility.”

Since the days of horse and cart, people have proudly owned and lovingly cared for their analogue transport machine. But digital is breaking that bond as it expands the boundaries of possibility. The smartphone, Internet, wireless and cellular communications are giving us an unending supply of digital applications and services. We now expect our cars to bring us the same level of digitalisation.

Through the twin paths of assisted driving and self-driving, cars have features unheard of not many years ago. They park themselves, cruise hands-free on highways and with the pending arrival of full autonomy, are approaching a time when there may no longer be ‘drivers' as highlighted recently (alarmingly for me!) in the national TV news.

The holy grail could be a world where we will all be travellers, using various forms of transportation that will be part of a seamless connected continuum, coasting on our poorly maintained and rapidly deteriorating roads that could be at least, congestion-free.

People, especially the growing ranks of digital hungry 20- and 30-year-olds, could see the car not as a product to buy, but rather transportation as a mobility experience, that will take them somewhere in a single vehicle or via multiple forms of transport.

With 7.2 billion gadgets and more mobile phones than people, the world has never been this connected. By 2020, there is expected to be more than 28.1 billion connected devices. The challenge for the car industry will be to adapt, thrive and stay relevant to match the pace of onrushing digital and technological changes. How, for example, do you design a car so that its longer lifespan can accommodate the short life cycle of the digital technologies within it.

While there have been huge developments in safety, build and performance in the past 100 years, there haven't been the same level of astonishing products or breakthroughs like we've seen in the technology sector. Digitisation will drive more innovation in the car industry in the next 20 years than there has been in the past 100 years.

Driving this change is the rise of digitally enabled and empowered consumers who increasingly demand that their vehicles provide the same level of digital utility and capability they have grown accustomed to in their electronic devices.

To them, transportation is not only a means to get somewhere but also an experiential and emotional journey enhanced by sophisticated user interface platforms giving them instant access to transparent data, augmented by a boundless array of social media and entertainment services.

Meeting these demands is a particular challenge for an industry that throughout its existence has been focused on creating hardware products, rather than delivering software solutions. As a result, third party technology suppliers in the industry must also respond to fundamental consumer expectations, around security and data privacy.

Moving from selling a car to providing individualised smart mobility services is surely forcing the car industry to work well outside its comfort zone in many aspects of its production line!

:: Trevor Bingham (editorial@itfuel.com) is business relationship manager at ItFuel in Craigavon. Follow them on Twitter @itfuel.

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