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Put It in Reverse: Why It’s Time to Design Connected Cars Backward

Feb. 25, 2019
The automotive industry moves fast. Sometimes too fast for its own good.

In just a few short years, car interiors have seen their fair share of changes. Basic configurations featuring nothing more than a speedometer along with a few additional dials have given way to a whole host of new options, including state-of-the-art navigation systems and entertainment apps.

Research shows the global market for connected cars could grow as much as 270% by 2022. As connected vehicles become more common and new innovations make their way to the market, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have a significant opportunity to foster even more innovation.

While it’s tempting to rush into implementing new technology, sometimes less is more. By refocusing design efforts on the user experience (UX) rather than solely on offering high-tech features, OEMs can reduce complexity for the end user and ultimately pave the way for increased driver safety as well as more secure over-the-air updates.

Increased Driver Safety

There’s no way around it—distracted driving is dangerous. In 2016 alone, nearly 3,500 people were killed as a result of distracted driving. Slipping a quick glance at a phone or in-car entertainment system might seem harmless, but a situation can quickly turn deadly. Drivers traveling at 55 miles per hour can cover the length of a football field—end zones included—in  just five seconds.

For OEMs, saving lives is as simple as making a car interior more intuitive. New vehicles that are flooded with dozens of different features can often be overwhelming, especially to older drivers who may not be as familiar with technology. Rather than opting for every new feature that comes across the factory floor, OEMs should carefully consider which options bring the most value to their customers.

If, for example, a vehicle is typically used to transport supplies or equipment from one jobsite to another, it’s crucial that an in-car navigation system is easily accessible. After all, drivers are more likely to use that feature than an option for heated seats. While there’s certainly value in offering heated seats or automatic parking, such features don’t outweigh the importance of including a top-notch GPS in this use case.

Similarly, vehicles that are more popular among younger customers may not need to be designed with the radio being front and center. From Pandora to Spotify, today’s consumers are more inclined to create playlists of their own on music streaming services. OEMs that take such preferences into account can create an in-car entertainment system that’s more conducive to a driver’s habits. The result? Less time spent fumbling through a poorly designed UX.

All too often, cars are designed with an endless list of features. But by focusing on just a handful of meaningful options, OEMs can craft a simpler, and, ultimately, safer experience for drivers. Instead of wondering how to find a specific feature, drivers can keep their focus where it belongs—on the road.

Personalized, Data-Driven Updates

It hasn’t always been easy to tell which technologies are most important to drivers. An absence of connectivity has often left OEMs wondering whether certain features should be substituted for newer innovations. With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), however, lack of connectivity is no longer an issue.

OEMs now have the luxury of leveraging available data to inform potential improvements. Given how quickly consumer preferences can change, it’s crucial that OEMs bypass traditional surveys and focus groups in favor of in-car data, such as the amount of time a specific feature is used. Not only is in-car data vital to identifying patterns and segmenting customers, but it also opens the door for more personalized experiences.

Drivers who frequently access the same set of apps, for example, could use a shortcut that minimizes their time spent looking away from the road. Similarly, data can help highlight the need for preventative maintenance. A Bluetooth feature that sees a steady decline in sound quality may be in line for an update sooner rather than later.

To turn such upgrades into reality, OEMs must first take the UX into account. Releasing over-the-air updates is a great way to cater to customers. After all, consumers simply need to opt in to start reaping the rewards.

But before doing so, chances are questions concerning security will arise. An increasing number of data breaches makes some consumers leery of accepting over-the-air updates or sharing data altogether. OEMs that put security measures in place prior to implementing new innovations stand to create a UX that will build trust and loyalty with customers.

In the automotive industry, change is the name of the game. Rapid technological advances paved the way for an entirely new in-car experience. Although there may be a desire to take advantage of every latest feature, complexity can often turn such options into more of a burden than a benefit. OEMs that design with the UX in mind have the opportunity to craft connected cars that are not only easier to use, but also safer and more secure.

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