Increasing vehicle sophistication has brought connected technologies to the fore, necessitated by various factors
These factors including increasing trends of in-vehicle connectivity, growing consumer demand for luxury & comfort in vehicles, strong focus on intelligent transportation systems as well as an upsurge in tech-savvy population – all focussed on the larger objective of enhancing vehicle performance, safety as well as upping the vehicle comfort quotient.
According to a recent study, the global connected vehicle market was valued at $ 63.03 bn in 2019, and is projected to reach $ 225 bn by 2027, registering a CAGR of 17.1 %. Clearly, the automotive world is shifting towards connected transportation that will be enabled by a variety of communication technologies, including vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and telematics, which bring so much to the table – offering real-time street updates, smart routing & tracking, detecting driver drowsiness or fatigue, vehicle health, vehicle theft as well as offering real-time diagnostics, roadside assistance in case of accidents, automatic parking, parking management, and on-board entertainment, among others.
Traditionally, infotainment, telematics and diagnostics essentially operated in silos with little or no communication between them. But the arrival of advanced communication technologies such as long-term evolution (LTE) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) brought these silos together, thus significantly enhancing the user experience. It is in the area of telematics, where connected technology has made faster inroads helping fleet operators extract vehicle utilisation-related data and load locations that further help optimise logistics, implement high-level maintenance and improve vehicle utilisation that goes a long way in subsequently enhancing ROI.
Vehicles are also becoming increasingly personalised and this explains the growing consumer demand for infotainment systems. It won’t be out of place to suggest that consumers are looking at their vehicles as an extended arm of their smartphone as they desire to view all they can on their phones on the screen of the infotainment system.
For a country that has a dubious distinction for road fatalities and grapples with frustratingly high levels of congestion, especially in urban pockets, the connected ecosystem can play a significant part in mitigating them without eliminating them altogether. Of course, the shift to a connected car ecosystem has its fair share of complexities or challenges – the most prominent being cybersecurity risks, wherein carmakers, connectivity service providers and businesses managing car fleets, could be at the receiving end of cyber threats.
IV Rao, Visiting Senior Fellow, Centre for Sustainable Mobility, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), and former Senior MEO, Engineering & Director, Maruti Centre for Excellence said connected technology holds lot of promise, but will take time before it emerges as a mass market product in the Indian context. “India is still a big market for entry level or low-cost vehicles and this why connected technology will first witness adoption in high-end vehicles in India. But once connected technologies mature and are made on a mass scale, they will become affordable and subsequently may witness adoption across all segments,” he noted.
Connected technology will work really well for public transportation, he said. “Look at the way connected technology has been deployed in developed countries for public transportation, wherein there is a continuous communication between bus and bus stops (where people are waiting). One can see a steady stream of information at bus stops, wherein people exactly know what time the bus can be expected at the bus stop and what is the current bus location, for example,” he observed.
IN-CAR INFOTAINMENT & TELEMATICS
A connected vehicle ecosystem can enable effective traffic management by better routing with real-time traffic information, time-based one-way roads, diversion advisories due to accidents or road closures that can help ensure smoother traffic flow, thus resulting in lower emissions and fuel-savings that otherwise get wasted in traffic jams, Rao explained.
According to Dr Ravi Damodaran, CTO, Greaves Cotton, connected technology would go a long way towards upping the ‘intelligence’ quotient in the vehicle. The objective of a connected technology is to make vehicles intelligent enough for optimal utilisation of the mobility ecosystem as well as operate the vehicle at maximum efficiencies while de-risking it from human error, he noted. Dr Damodaran believes that connected technologies will gain more prominence in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that is considered as the bridge from non-autonomous to fully autonomous vehicles.
“Such technologies would have a big role to play in various areas of ADAS such as park assist, lane change and adaptive cruise control that enables the vehicle a higher degree of control, thereby reducing human dependency. The vehicle takes inputs from the ecosystem through detection systems and is intelligent enough to decide vehicle manoeuvres, although it is still dependent on user commands,” he pointed out.
Connected technology, Rao insists, will witness increased prominence of telematics coupled with a steady penetration of electric vehicles (EVs) in India. “Range and battery life are the most important aspects of EVs and connected applications will help look at efficient energy utilisation from the battery as well as higher battery life. One electric two-wheeler manufacturer literally maps how the vehicle is used, how is the battery condition and can even advise the user when to charge the battery. Further, the industry is moving towards a scenario, wherein toll payments or various bill payments can also be processed leveraging vehicle telematics, using voice interfaces and secure authentication,” remarked Rao.
Ashim Sharma, Partner & Group Head Business Performance Improvement Consulting (Auto, Engg. & Logistics), Nomura Research Institute, also underpinned the importance of telematics in the connected ecosystem. “Vehicles nowadays are no longer isolated from the outside world thanks to the advent of connected technology. It enables remote vehicle diagnostics – further, telematics coupled with secured data transaction using blockchain also helps in offering tailored insurance packages and ensuring better vehicle resale.”
Sharma reckons connected technologies have broadened the in-car infotainment portfolio. “This technology enables access to multiple music and over-the-top (OTT) platforms in a car. Voice-activated technologies with Alexa/Siri-enabled infotainment systems enable streaming of favourite content and access to favourite apps in the car. Connected technologies also enable a more personalised experience for vehicle occupants with various connected features such as automated climate control, ambient lighting and memory seat position,” he said.
Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technologies can augment safety levels for vehicle occupants and pedestrians by minimising road accidents, as they enable information sharing between vehicles about road and driving conditions, thereby helping streamline traffic and facilitating vehicle safety by avoiding collisions. “Further, V2I connectivity can enhance safety levels for vehicle occupants and pedestrians by mitigating road accidents and also come in handy even in case of an accident with features like on-road assistance, emergency call service, etc,” he added.
Of course, the ultimate form of connectedness will be witnessed in autonomous vehicles, feels Dr Damodaran. “Autonomous vehicles will witness never-before-seen levels of connectedness. Of course, connectedness at such a scale and of such complexity would demand a high degree of reliability and that has to be backed by a conducive ecosystem and legislation for implementation,” he observed.
Connected technology will continue to make big strides in the areas of vehicle telematics among fleet operators for the obvious advantages it offers, both for drivers as well as occupants. The government’s strong focus on vehicle safety will ensure vehicles of future get more connected. The potential of connected technology is immense and it is poised to create new business models and even destroy existing ecosystems along the way – needless to say this connected technology will seriously impact the future of mobility.
TEXT: Suhrid Barua