I had a nice chat with the folks running the Sprint Velocity program this week and from it I think I’ve got a sense for where we are going with regards to connected cars. Sprint (News - Alert) Velocity is one of several programs from the major carriers, every one of which is busting their hump to get your next car connected to their wireless network. Well, except for Sprint, which is busting its hump to get you to use their technology to connect to any carrier (that’s their differentiator), which is why Chrysler and Audiovox picked them over the others.
Currently Tesla sets the bar with regard to connectivity, but they will soon be challenged by other vendors that want to benefit from the same intimate connection with drivers that Tesla enjoys.
Tesla: Today’s Standard
As noted above, Tesla sets the bar in this regard and is the strongest rolling showcase of what is in store for the rest of us in the next two years. The Tesla Model S is always connected back to Tesla support so that if there is a problem Tesla can instantly deploy people to fix it, and they can also anticipate a problem calling you in for a fix often before you’re stranded on the road. If you are having a problem with the Tesla, rather than the “wonderful” experience of trying to reproduce the sound that is driving you nuts away from the mechanic, but has gone into hiding every time you drive up to the service bay, Tesla is constantly running diagnostics which do a far better job of isolating the problem in the first place.
Much like your tablet or PC, the car does software updates after hours and most of the updates happen without you ever having to do anything about them. I maintain that without this level of connection, given the large number of problems any new technology has on the road, Tesla would not have survived if it hadn’t been for this technology because the problems associated with both a brand new platform and a lack of charging infrastructure would have overwhelmed Tesla buyers. But with the technology, they were able to maintain a very high customer experience, and today Tesla drivers are one of the most loyal customer bases in the world.
The Future: Cortana/Siri for the Road
What many folks that use iPhones or Windows phones don’t realize is that Siri and Cortana don’t run on your phone; they run in the cloud, and with a connected car you could have a very similar experience. You could switch to full voice commands for setting car services like air conditioning levels and even opening and closing windows. If couldn’t find a car feature, you could ask where it is and not only get a near-instant answer, in many cases you could have the feature either turned on or off for you or have the center screen automatically populated so you could do it yourself. All the time your hands would remain on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road (rather than what happens today, where your eyes have to go to the center display and your hands have to wander over seemingly everything like a teenage boy on prom night).
Over time your information will flow into the system and it will know what you like and when you’d like it. If you like Mexican food and it is around lunchtime your car will point out vocally or on a menu the best place to get Mexican food on your driving route. It’ll know a bit about your car and likely point out when another version (if you are into cars) is in the immediate vicinity and point it out. Of course warnings on police cars, speed traps, and traffic problems have been with us since Waze but how about someone in the car next to you with similar interests while you are stuck in traffic? Or what if a Facebook (News - Alert) or real friend is near you on the freeway? It could not only tell where they are but who they are and cue up their phone number so you could call them hands-free.
These are just a few of the things that are coming with the next several waves of connected cars. As with all things this revolutionary, our guesses will likely pale next the reality of cars that can warn us of getting -- or protect us better -- from road rage, call for help while (or even before) an accident happens, and can route us around areas where we don’t want to be and to areas we never would have discovered. It will soon be an amazing new world of connected cars.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson