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Drivers Want Smarter Cars

A more connected car delivers a smarter experience

August 1, 2013 By John R. Quain
In the future, cars may be driving themselves down the road, but for the rest of the year it’s all about connected vehicles.
Automakers at the beginning of the year generated a lot of RPMs about autonomous cars. Toyota has hyped a self-driving Lexus LS outfitted with a laser and camera system that gives the vehicle a 360-degree view of the road and the ability to recognize traffic lights. Audi has been demonstrating a car with a computerized valet: the car parked itself, sans driver.
But the biggest trend is about delivering connected services to drivers. Automakers such as Ford and GM have unveiled additional smartphone-based apps for their vehicles, while retailers and 12-volt installers have been given plenty of opportunities to match those options with aftermarket products. And all indications are that consumers want the app experience behind the wheel.
A survey from IBM entitled Transforming Retail shows that car owners are increasingly interested in options such as live traffic reports and personalized services like Pandora and Yelp. According to the report, consumers are ranking such options as more important than brand loyalty and even reliability. It’s why companies like Ford are including programs like BeCouply, an app that offers nearby dating suggestions, in cars this year. Wacky or not, consumers say they want these technological gimcracks. While most shoppers may not be able to afford a new Mustang to get streaming media in the car, there has been a growing number of upgrade options available to satisfy that desire this year.
In the “we’re not dead yet” category, portable navigation devices continue to add creative features to match what in-dash systems and smartphones can offer. Magellan’s SmartGPS PND uses a Bluetooth connection to connect to an owner’s smartphone using a free app. It gives the PND a live, two-way data connection to the Internet without an additional monthly subscription fee. Magellan has included FourSquare alerts, Yelp reviews, and synchronized trip planning. Plot out a vacation on a PC at home and it will automatically be loaded into the on-dash device when you hop in the car. It’s a feature not unlike those offered in built-in systems from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, without the big sticker price.
Magellan has taken the additional step of including Wi-Fi in the SmartGPS. This enables automatic over-the-air updates whenever an owner’s car is within range of the driver’s home network. Just pull into your garage, and the SmartGPS will check for new maps and information. (In a live driving demonstration of the device, it also picked out red light cameras on my route.)


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