Despite the recent unveiling of remarkable connected car innovations at CES 2017, such as AI-powered driving or extending the connected car into the home, 2017 won’t become known as the year of the connected car — at least when it comes to consumer adoption.
The industry hype is legitimate, as connected car technology is accelerating day by day, but these advancements have not yet trickled down to the consumer market and likely won’t for another year. Instead, this will be the year when the industry puts the pedal to the metal, laying the groundwork for what should be a successful 2018 with higher consumer adoption.
Though current offerings are plentiful, the industry must work now to create more accessible technology for drivers at a consumer-friendly price.
More compelling, less overwhelming
A striking one-third (31 percent) of U.S. automotive consumers are completely unaware of the existence of connected car technology, according to Nielsen. Why is this? Simply put, the current offerings on the market are not technologically compelling enough to drive high consumer interest.
This is understandable, as the market is very much still in its infancy, for both in-car and aftermarket products. Manufacturer apps are as of yet underdeveloped and need to grow further to meet the real needs of real drivers.
Similarly, aftermarket products such as OBD plug-ins offer helpful features, but most are still limited to one or two capabilities. Thus if drivers want assistance with multiple driving services, they’ll find multiple gadgets piling up in their cars. In order to flourish, auto manufacturers and connected car technology developers need to focus on ramping up the technological capabilities to create more comprehensive and feature-heavy products.
Additionally, this refined technology must be offered in a more user-friendly format. As cars are becoming increasingly sophisticated, the average consumer can be easily overwhelmed and confused by the options, especially when the technology advances so rapidly.
In fact, a J.D. Power report found that at least 20 percent of new-vehicle owners had never used 16 out of 33 advanced car technology features. Even many automotive salespeople don’t understand the new technology accurately enough to describe it to buyers, further stymying adoption.
The connected car industry must make ease of use a top priority as it continues to innovate.
Finally, no matter how refined or user-friendly connected car technology becomes, consumers won’t buy into the innovation unless they deem it worth the cost.
Unfortunately, current data options for connected car technology are costly and can stick consumers with roaming charges. According to McKinsey, only 21 percent of new car buyers would be willing to pay for subscription-based connectivity services. With the continued rollout of 4G LTE and 5G networks, however, 2017 will see connection quality improve and expand, especially when paired with reliable Internet of Things (IoT) partners to help bridge the network and the car.
The promise of an exciting 2018
Fortunately, there is hope ahead for the fledgling industry, as the technology it needs to address these issues is becoming available now. For example, some IoT technologies that have proven effective in the smart home realm are being integrated into connected car offerings, while new third-party players are beginning to provide subscribers with the option of much lower cost data plans.
With the architectural infrastructure coming into place, if connected car engineers can develop powerful, user-friendly technology coupled with data plans that don’t break the bank, 2018 will be the year that consumer adoption truly takes off.
Russell Ure is the CEO of Klashwerks, a connected auto company.