The Connected Car: The Future of Transportation

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Why the Future of Connected Cars Isn’t About the Car

You’ve been hearing a lot about the connected car in the news lately, and for good reason. The idea of the connected car is about the future of driving technology. But, the ‘Connected Car’ is a vague concept: a car equipped with internet access that can display and alert drivers to their surroundings. A deeper look into what it truly means to be ‘connected’ deserves attention, as I believe it goes beyond the boundaries of the car itself.

The connected car is a topic we strongly believe in at Passport – and it gets us excited for the changes and improvements that it will bring to parking. Because we’re so excited about it, we’ve created a company vision around this innovative concept.

We believe the connected car, in its perfected form, will act as an extension of a user’s smartphone. Instead of an isolated operating system built by Ford, or GM or BMW running the connected car, we believe that it will be your Android or iOS smartphone that will be the brains behind the ‘connection’ in your connected car.

There are many reasons why we believe this will be the case.

Smartphone Familiarity

The smartphone has become ubiquitous. Drivers are either using an Android smartphone, an iOS smartphone, or getting ridiculed for any other choice. It’s already taken a few years for the less savvy users of these phones to master them, but now that they have, they demand them. Smarter car manufacturers, such as Honda, have already started a trend that will drive sales. The last two model years of the Honda Civic has had options to allow users to connect their smartphones to their in-car display. This feature will accelerate sales for Honda, and force other manufacturers to follow.

Unified Platforms for Developers

This reason may be a little bit self centered, but it is a valid point. App developers already have enough on their plate building for the two major smartphone platforms. If every car manufacturer decides to force their own platform it will make it next to impossible for application developers to satisfactorily create systems for them all. The end result will be a proliferation of half-baked applications, which only disappoint users in the end, or a limited set of vehicle types that end up with connected car support. Neither result is desirable.

Cost Reductions for Car Manufacturers 

Building successful operating systems isn’t easy. Just ask Nokia, Microsoft, Palm and Blackberry. These are billion dollar companies which failed to make a smartphone operating system that could satisfy users. Now car manufacturers want to try to do the same thing? The smarter car manufacturer would focus on building cars and giving access to their control to Android and iOS. This would remove a huge development burden in a sector of technology that the car manufacturers aren’t equipped to be successful in. 

Backward Compatibility for Existing Cars

I just bought a BMW built in 2006 and I plan to hold onto it for at least 3 to 5 years. So what does the connected car mean for me if I can’t participate? Do you think it’s likely I’ll just sit on the sideline while this happens? It’s unlikely. The same is true for millions of Americans and the fact of the matter is – the connected car is already happening. My 2006 has a display unit – but I hardly use it. I use my smartphone instead. I’m not alone. I see coworkers with updated 2015 model years doing the same thing. The car manufacturers and their platform operating systems just won’t be able to keep up with the innovation occurring on smartphone platforms. This is good news for all of the existing cars in the market, because even though you won’t be able to see your smartphone screen displayed on the in-car display unit, you’ll still be able to find a place to park and pay for that space without buying a new car.

Future-Proofing Cars 

Back to my 2006 BMW. What do you think the biggest deficiency is with that car? I’ll tell you. It’s that in-car display unit. Those old in-car units fall behind technology rapidly. If instead manufacturers focused on display-only parts which could be updated with aftermarket displays, I would have been able to update the only part that truly ages my vehicle. Vehicle manufacturers should drop the idea of their own operating system and instead focus on creating APIs for developers to tie into. APIs are timeless. Smartphones built today could then control and interact with the vehicle as well as smartphones built in 10 years.

Future proofing also goes beyond technology. It also goes into future proofing against the future concept of the car. How will you be traveling in 5 years? In 10 years? You may be using a ZipCar and you’ll want your saved driving settings to come with you. You may be coming to work daily in your private for hire rideshare (Uber/Lyft) and you’ll want your favorite songs to be playing. There’s only one certainty for the future – and that is you won’t be traveling in cars the same.

So, there you have it. The connected car is already here. Because, being connected is more than the connected car. It’s the connected person, and your phone ties you to everything. The only intelligent device we need is the phone. All other items use it to access you and your data. It’s in your palm – probably where you are reading this article. The only thing we have to do now is wait. It will only be a matter of time before all car manufacturers support the concept of allowing your smartphone control – expanding your connection to your world.