Our mobilised generation is presently undergoing a shift in lifestyle, partly due to the effects of technology. Vehicles of all forms have become an integral part of our lives globally and this trend is only expected to grow in the coming years. The most crucial effect of this on our lifestyle is the increasing time we spend in our vehicles. The need of the hour is to find a way to effectively utilise this time as businesses, personal and social aspects become increasingly virtual.
A solution to these requirements came in the form of ‘Telematics’, which in simple words is a combination of telecommunication and wireless information technologies such as GPS. The connection is established via a device paired with the on-board diagnostics of a vehicle, which collects and transmits information to and from various information sources. Telematics can be used for multiple purposes including vehicle tracking, connectivity and safety among many others.
Globally, many companies have done extensive work on the technology and have helped it grow quickly in a short span of time. Indian companies too have joined the bandwagon as smartphones sales and traffic continues to grow at a spiraling rate. Mahindra Telematics and Mahindra Engineering have jointly developed a telematics service. This service can offer navigation, infotainment, remote diagnostics and fleet management. The XUV 500 is a good platform to see some of these technologies working well.
Hyundai’s Blue Link Telematics Platform is another such service, which has found good traction among consumers. The platform offers voice recognition system for performing POI search in addition to all the above mentioned services. The service also offers safety features such as carsh notification and assistance and roadside assistance. Barry Ratzlaff, Director, Customer Satisfaction & Service Business Development, Hyundai Motor America, said, Blue Link combines safety, service and infotainment into a complete package that works to both help simplify Hyundai owners’ lives and reduce distracted driving. We’ve carefully studied how drivers rely on smart phones and navigation systems as an innovative link to the outside world. Blue Link brings that seamless connectivity directly into the car with technology like voice text messaging, POI web search download, turn-by-turn navigation, and monthly vehicle reporting.”
A new product in the MirrorLink driving project is the Drive Link smartphone application by Samsung. The application has been approved by the Japanese Automotive Manufacturers Association. The app allows the user to access important phone features through voice commands while driving. The app can even read out messages, emails and social media updates aloud if specified. MirrorLink connectivity enables the phone to feed the information to a compatible in-car screen or speakers. One can also control the phone using the controls on the steering wheel through this app.
While the technology seems a perfect fit for fulfilling future connectivity requirements, there is another school of a slightly different thought. A panel at the J.D. Power International Automotive Roundtable in Orlando, Florida stated that telematics are at a risk of becoming too complicated and distracting for drivers. A key problem in this scenario is the difference in development cycle of smartphones and cars, which is poles apart at the least. Smartphones are usually developed in less than a year in present circumstances as consumers tend to change them every year. Cars on the other hand are retained from anywhere between five years to more than a decade. A negative effect of this varied development cycle is that telematics platforms become outdated way before that of a vehicle.
The panel acknowledged the opportunity available in the form of the time people spend in the car. However they made it clear that people still don’t have clear expectations from their vehicle telematics. It’s up to the OEMs to draw a line else the systems might become so complex that people at some time might stop using it altogether.
The future of telematics offers great opportunity but demands even greater introspection into the development path. The technology definitely requires carmakers to work in close coordination with smartphone developers. More importantly it requires for development of systems and interfaces that are an extension of smartphone features along with other safety and convenience features. This will have to be the case since parallel development cycles will only be a detriment rather than a solution for either of the industries.