Hermann Hänle
11. July 2019 0

Connected cars – a little bit extra

It must be 15 years ago now that I sat at New York JFK Airport staring into space, pretty lost. Despite having a ticket, I didn’t have a space on the plane home. And then the magic moment: My ticket was torn up by the well-intentioned flight attendant and I got a business class upgrade. My first – and my last so far …

The world of upgrades

That was the first time that I actively came into contact with “the upgrade.” The following years proved to be the golden years of upgrades. Whether at the swimming pool (plus sauna), at the buffet (plus specially selected meats), (traditionally) at the deli (“it’s a bit more than 200 grams …”), with software – we can “upgrade” everywhere. Upgrades are now coming into fashion in cars, too. And not just when it comes to buying them. Mercedes offers drivers of the A-Class add-on additional services such as digital radio or cell phone keys. The benefit is clear: The driver is free – within reason, at least – to choose his additional services. And he decides when he needs them. For Daimler, this means intensification of the customer relationship and a new business model – which requires an appropriate infrastructure, such as an app store.

Opportunities for new digital services

In times of digital (possibly soon to be autonomous) cars, we can dream of the services that await us in future: perhaps autonomous theft protection (€ 599). When an owner realizes that his car has been stolen, he launches the app and activates theft mode. The autonomous car takes control of the vehicle, informs the police, and drives the car thief directly to security. Or an inflatable AI passenger for engaging conversation on lonely journeys (€ 399); or for beginners: the on-demand air freshener (€0.99). Or even driving-related functions such as additional processing of sensor information with external data. Entertainment services will be the reality: music and audio books or videos from libraries.

Connected cars for more intensive customer relationships and flexibility

The connected car has long since become more than a utopia. Networking is increasingly straying away from being a basic driving service and is working its way onto higher (business) levels. More powerful networks such as 5G will permit ever more data-hungry advanced services in cars. Over-the-air updates might become the new business model – and millennials that have forgotten/lost their smartphones be able to use WiFi for € 1.99 per 100 MB.

With new cars that provide convenient networking functions straight from the factory, it’s not an issue. A relatively recent, but very optimistic, study forecasts that between 2018 and 2022 125 million connected cars will be sent out to the world’s markets. In Europe, penetration is apparently going to be almost 100 percent by 2020 (next year!) . How that is going to happen in view of the number of cars – not just on German roads – that are a good few years old I have no idea. When you’re out for a drive on a Sunday, just take a look at the number of “H”s that you see on license plates. eCall in or out. Not every driver has the desire or budget to buy a new car just because new networking technology has been developed. Smartphones can do the same job. Retrofit hardware like the famous on-board units for trucks are a pragmatic alternative when it comes to connectivity. They are perfect for those that want to enjoy the benefits of networking without having to deal with buying a new vehicle. I’m interested to see how many networked cars I will see by the end of 2020. And for how many the car radio is thought of as connectivity 😉. At the Daimler EDM CAE Forum we will be showing how cars can be made connective – regardless of whether they are coming straight off the production line or are being retrofitted. Why don’t you drop by?

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