There’s almost nothing as frustrating as being on the way to an important meeting when a traffic jam stops you in your tracks. Do you sit quietly fuming, stress levels rising as you realise you’ll probably miss that vital presentation opportunity? Or, do you take a deep breath and vow that, next time, you’ll embrace the power of connected driving?
The demand for smartphone-like functionality in cars is strong, and automakers have an opportunity to not only satisfy this demand, but also make it safer by reducing the urge to handle a phone while driving. It makes so much sense to bring smartphone functionality into cars that it’s a wonder people have had to fiddle with USB cables and Bluetooth just to make phone calls for this long.
The internet has dramatically changed the way we live, work and play, so why not also the way we drive? We ask BMW, Audi and Mercedes what the near future has in store.
Audi’s integrated computer system is called Audi Connect and uses a mobile broadband connection to offer online services such as Google Earth and Google search.
The car’s computer can also act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for everyone in the car. “That makes it perfect for families to use their own tablets to download movies or play games,” says Shaun Cleary, product communications manager at Audi Australia. “And any connected SIM on the Australian mobile data network can be used, so the customer has the opportunity to use their own preferred carrier.”
Imagine being told exactly at what speed you should drive in order to reach the next intersection just as the lights change to green. This is the sort of development being researched, according to Cleary. Smoother acceleration and deceleration, over time, means significant reduction in fuel usage and mechanical wear and tear.
BMW’s ConnectedDrive system allows web browsing on the centre screen when the vehicle is stationary and on the rear-set screens while driving.
ConnectedDrive goes beyond a warning light on the dashboard – it automatically transmits information about how the car’s systems are performing to the dealership so they already know what the problem is when they call you to book a service.
“This enables the dealership to prepare for any servicing works determined by the condition-based servicing system,” says Adam Davis, product communications manager at BMW Australia. “It means that the dealership is prompted to call you rather than you having to take time to arrange the service and explain what is required.”
In the event of a break down, the system can call roadside assistance and send all the relevant vehicle information at the press of a button. Or if an accident occurs, ConnectedDrive automatically activates a telephone call for assistance and transfers vehicle accident information via a dedicated call centre. Emergency services are informed and deployed via the call centre if required.
And even when you’re enjoying a blissful drive without roadworks, breakdowns and traffic jams, BMW’s Concierge Services can make sure that your arrival at your destination is just as stress-free. With the press of a button your own ‘personal assistant’ can organise almost anything: the nearest ATM, petrol station, a nice bed and breakfast or an on-duty pharmacist.
Mercedes-Benz COMAND online system enables owners to call up websites, provide an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and control phone, SMS, music and navigation. The internet can be used without restrictions when the vehicle is stationary. Mercedes-Benz apps such as Weather, Google Local Search with Streetview and Panoramio, destination/route download and Facebook can be used while on the move.
Product communications manager Matthew Pasiopoulos explains,“The options available include: automatic tailback avoidance by means of accurate and up-to-date ‘Live Traffic Information’, lane recommendation and following of predefined routes’.
Clearly, there’s an arms race occurring right now as car makers ramp up their efforts to develop software and technology. It’s not just the next big thing that will differentiate the car brands of today, but necessary to survive in the long term as companies like Tesla, Google and (maybe) Apple start to make waves in the automotive space.