If the Internet of Things has not affected you yet, it will soon. By 2032 it's expected that each person will be surrounded by up to 5,000 Internet-connected "things." This got me thinking about how connected we are today as individuals.
Without a doubt, my cell phone has become an extension of my hand and I rely on my phone for so many things. The Internet of Things is allowing us to venture outside traditionally connected objects and into unexplored space. These days I'm looking to the automotive industry for my next Internet-connected purchase. I want my next car to take on a dual role — a fun ride and a new level of intimacy, connectivity, and productivity.
For a guy who likes cars, the automotive industry is getting really exciting. When considering a purchase, a car's technology package is becoming as important as its driving performance. Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be 250 million connected cars on the road. This category of connected cars includes connected engines, heating and cooling, infotainment, security, and more. Car manufacturers are being pressured on all sides to become more digital in and around the driver's seat.
In addition to the rise of the connected car, Uber, Lyft, and ZipCar are questioning the need to "own" vehicles. According to a recent University of Michigan study, car ownership among millennial-aged buyers has dropped from over 90% in 1983 to just above 75% in 2014. Car manufacturers are taking note of this. Earlier this year, GM invested $500 million in Lyft to stay ahead of the rapidly changing industry. The two companies together are working on an app-based rental car service as well as developing a self-driving car. Other car companies are pairing up with tech companies with the motivation of staying relevant. Google and Lexus are famously working together on self-driving cars, as well as Ericsson and Volvo and over 100 car models that use Apple's CarPlay. Samsung recently acquired cloud provider Joyent in an effort to boost connected car and other IoT services.
The connected car has the potential to be more than just a set of cool features. A growing array of safety features can potentially curb user-error related deaths as well as fender benders — particularly for those who drive while distracted.
These features, known as ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems), are a transitional step toward self-driving vehicles. Many ADAS features are already incorporated into modern cars. GM offers a vibrating seat warning for lane drifting and companies such as Volvo and Mercedes-Benz have driver drowsiness detection that alerts the driver when they seem to be driving in an uncontrolled manner. These systems are only increasing in both numbers and effectiveness as they use technology to make driving safer.
As connected cars grow in relevance, the manufacturers that deliver great user experiences will distance themselves from the pack. Unfortunately, the average app rating for the top 15 car manufacturers is a lowly 2.21 stars for iOS and 3.42 stars for Android, and negative reviews for car manufacturer apps in app stores are a regular sighting. Here are two examples:
This app still needs a lot of work. The last update fixed Pandora but connectivity problems are still king. With full signal strength on my phone and streaming Pandora, the song info on the stereo doesn't advance with the songs. If I try to skip, thumbs up or down, the stereo shows loading and never stops. I have to force stop the app to get it to work. The Bluetooth connection works every time. -Troy Bierfeldt
Vehicle location is useless. This app indicates the vehicle location in what it describes as 'current location' but that's easily 60-90 minutes off real time (even when refreshing). Always says the vehicle is parked even when running. I can't imagine paying for this app. I certainly won't renew once my free trial ends. Basically useless. -Xylon Saltzman
The potential in this space is huge but the options currently on the market are subpar. Car manufacturers must focus on great app connectivity and the human factors such as safety to stay ahead of the curve. This will require understanding the customer journey and prioritizing mobile testing for app quality, both on Android and iOS. Failure to do this could be catastrophic for car manufacturers, leaving them locked out of an increasingly innovative space.