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Connected cars: The value of bridging the gap between developers and car manufacturers

When we look to our increasingly connected future — a future in which every new vehicle being built is a connected vehicle — what we can be certain of is the increased importance of the link between car manufacturers and developers.

In this three-part series of articles, let’s look at the growing importance of that relationship, challenges we face in strengthening it, solutions to those challenges and how to best navigate an industry which relies heavily on these two very different, codependent and delicately balanced ecosystems.

Current status of connected cars

The global connected car market is expected to exceed $219 billion by 2025, with the number of vehicles worldwide expected to reach 2.03 billion by 2030. Consumers are demanding more and more from their vehicles, from in-car entertainment to dashboard warnings regarding traffic, weather and hazards. Crucially, consumers are increasingly expecting their in-car experiences to mirror their out-of-car experiences, with one continuing seamlessly from the other.

Consumers’ expectations of the user experience are no longer exclusive to their experience of simply driving a car, but instead include a host of other considerations as well. For example, when buying a vehicle, a user may also take into account the maintenance and cleaning of the vehicle, whether they can have packages delivered to the vehicle, if they get an insurance policy that automatically adapts to their driving needs or if it will be able to find an elusive parking space in an area where they are hard to come by.

When purchasing a vehicle, a customer’s decision considerations will focus on mobility, connectivity and in-car user experience. The connected car and the apps and services which car manufacturers can offer customers via the technology it provides opens up numerous revenue streams for OEMs which were previously not possible. The opportunities for the carmaker and therefore the depth of experience available for the user are both limitless.

The role developers and car manufacturers play in the connected car cycle today

The production and success of a connected car is currently a combined effort consisting of a delicately balanced ecosystem. This ecosystem contains OEMs, aftermarket device manufacturers, content providers (third-party companies) and application developers. Although the vehicle itself facilitates the others, without any one part of this system we no longer have a production cycle that works.

Traditionally, the role of the car manufacturer has been to provide the vehicle. For car manufacturers today, connected cars represent a new era in the history of the car. Developing innovative and easy-to-use software and services will give them the edge over their competitors, open up new revenue streams and enable a direct relationship with customers.

Yet, adopting a whole new way of working — especially in a sector that has remained largely the same for decades — is going to be a difficult transition for some. To make the most of the opportunity that connected cars offer, OEMs need to engage customers and work with developers, enablers and third parties to offer customers the apps and services that they increasingly expect in their vehicles.

Despite the massive growth in IoT services — not to mention the explosion in software and application development over the last decade — right now connected car development is still considered to be a relatively niche field.

Why?

Online developer communities are notoriously hard to penetrate from outside organizations, like car manufacturers, as many developers perceive big business as going against the free and open source culture that is intrinsic to the creativity, discovery and innovation that developers value so highly. And it makes sense that the open source culture is so revered — it is this aspect of app development that makes it such an exciting field to be a part of. In contrast, big corporations can often be perceived as closed and bureaucratic, therefore stifling the very experimentation that leads to technological breakthroughs and discoveries.

A disconnect

It is this disconnect between the innovative and experimental world of app development and traditional, corporate car manufacturers (or at least this perhaps outdated perception of them) that is significantly hindering the development of connected car application development in a way that was not previously encountered during the development of for example smartphone or tablet applications.

As we are all aware, one of the central benefits of owning a smartphone or tablet is its ability to connect to the internet and utilize apps. Because this is a main function of owning a smartphone or tablet, the industries that produced phones were unlikely to have been seen as old-fashioned and impenetrable by developers. In addition, large companies like Apple and Google provided APIs from day one to enable developers to play around and create their own apps and businesses to launch and run using their product. This encouraged app development and it is now a booming industry in its own right.

The difference between a smartphone and a connected car, though, is that for many people a connected car simply represents what a car has always represented: a form of transport for getting from A to B. Any additional apps or services are simply beneficial extras, not integral to the vehicle itself and therefore not worth taking risks or sharing data for.

What this boils down to is that rather than developers tinkering around, experimenting and having fun with connected car app development of their own free choice — like they may have done in the past with smartphone app development, for example — they are holding back as they perceive the car industry to be too difficult to access and a closed and bureaucratic industry. Which in some cases it still is.

On the other side, carmakers have been fearful of sharing data with external parties like developers or startups that wish to work in the connected car industry due to the potential increased risk of cyberattacks or privacy breaches that this could create. If such a breach were to occur, it could have catastrophic effects on the carmaker and in turn its customers.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first article of this three-part series looking closely at the disconnect between developers and car manufacturers. In my next post, I’m going to examine more closely how the roles of developers and manufacturers are changing, as well as discuss the increasing number of opportunities for the two to come together.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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