The connected car space saw its share of innovations in 2016, from the entrance of automakers like BMW and Nissan and mobile companies like Samsung and Blackberry, to big promises from IoT brands and tech giants like Amazon, Alphabet and Uber.
The question now is, What will 2017 bring for the connected car market? While there are no certainties at this point, it’s possible to take cues from current tech successes and consumer sentiment to predict how the year ahead will shape up for some current hot topics in the space.
Apple enthusiasts who are holding out hope for Apple-manufactured cars may be disappointed in the year ahead. While Apple has voiced its interest in self-driving cars, it’s more likely that we’ll see it partner in the shorter term with an automotive manufacturer — perhaps creating new technology for the car interface — than create its own automobile.
Apple may be taking a cue from fellow tech giant Alphabet, which recently announced that this isn’t something it’s pursuing either, but will instead be licensing its Waymo technology to automakers.
Though Uber’s self-driving vehicles are beginning to take to the streets, they may not realize much in the way of real progress in 2017. The rideshare company’s culture is infamous for being one to push the regulatory envelope, which we might see result in some consequences for the company in the year ahead.
Additionally, as real-world trials of this technology increase, we will inevitably see more examples of it falling short as it is still a technology under development. At this vulnerable moment for the industry, one serious injury or major incident could be enough to delay regulatory approval for some time.
Smart Voice Assistants
Despite automakers’ integrations, it’s unlikely that we see great success with these smart speaker technologies in new cars in 2017. The mass adoption (or lack thereof) of devices such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo in consumers’ homes may be an indication of how well the auto integration of these technologies will be accepted. As these technologies weren’t created with an auto-first approach, we can expect that consumer adoption of these technologies in their cars may be slower than that in their homes.
We’ll have to monitor how these home devices are doing in the consumer market to get a sense of how well we can expect them to perform for auto manufacturers in the long run — And right now, it seems that consumers are on the fence. Though they could offer some useful features such as reading text messages or integrating with other connected technologies, the real market for these pre-installed technologies is yet unknown.
On the other hand, one of the big stories to watch in 2017 will be electric vehicles. Though Tesla has a stronghold over the electric car market, the industry itself is more mature and has a firmer foundation, allowing a wider spread of players here in the year ahead. With the major setback of diesel engines last year, this may be enough to push many to place their bets on electric power.
We can expect that most, if not all, mainstream auto companies will reveal their electric car strategies in 2017 and begin to lay the groundwork for competing in this burgeoning market.
Automated Driving Technology
In the same way, we can expect to see an increase in the offering of driver assist technology. Much different from self-driving technology, these automated assist features are designed to reduce the load for drivers, as opposed to replacing the need for a human driver completely.
Though this technology is currently available in many higher end cars, it is proving to be quite successful in terms of consumer adoption and technological execution; thus, we can expect to see mainstream manufacturers throw their hats in the automation ring next year in a bid to reap the benefits.
Lastly, we can expect that wireless communication between automobiles will boom next year, which is fortunate, as the better that vehicles know their surroundings, the safer the roads will be. This movement will specifically be aided by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s recently unveiled connected vehicle plan, which says that passenger cars and trucks will be able to wirelessly stream data about movements and monitor vehicles so they don’t crash.
Additionally, this momentum will provide a big opportunity for aftermarket car technologies. As the average age of cars on the road continues to increase — due to rising interest rates and a decline in new car purchases, and higher quality vehicles across the spectrum — aftermarket car technologies can develop ways for these older cars to connect to the new network.
Overall, we can expect a busy year ahead for the connected car industry, but it will be important to follow along closely. Some ideas that sound too-good-to-be-true will likely turn out to be so, and some innovations that won’t seem big at all might just end up becoming remarkably important advancements for the sector.