As technological advancements have revolutionized the driving experience, car interiors have become seamlessly integrated with the outside world.
Sensors and software make it possible for vehicles to interact with your home or office, allowing you to stay connected while on the move. While autonomous vehicles are likely years away from becoming mainstream, connected cars are here and now. Those working in the automotive industry realize that as artificial intelligence solutions continue to advance the level of connectivity between the outside world and the inside of a vehicle, personalization is becoming one of the key elements of connected vehicles.
However, up until now, true personalization hasn’t been available for vehicles, despite the amount of time drivers spend on the road and the range of ways vehicles are used. Instead, vehicle personalization has been limited to accessories — more specifically, stylistic and functional accessories. (Think of new rims as an example of a style accessory, and a tow hitch as an example of a functional accessory.)
Today, thanks to AI and other smart technologies, vehicle personalization is no longer restricted to these types of features. Cars can not only reflect your personality; they can adapt to it. In-car features use data from other smart devices, transforming the vehicle’s interior to reflect the preferences of the driver and creating an in-car experience that is as unique as a fingerprint.
While OEMs continue to focus on these interior aspects of personalization, technology innovators are delivering personalization on another level, through technology that changes not only the way a vehicle looks, but also the way it performs. When a vehicle comes off the production line, it’s a one-size-fits-all solution, regardless of the end use case. In an ideal world, a manufacturer would create one solution for somebody who tows their boat, another for someone primarily driving in the city, another for someone who spends most of their time on the freeway, and so on. In lieu of building a car that fits each driver’s specific needs, aftermarket manufacturers have developed software that can make modifications to a vehicle’s computer (ECU), optimizing vehicle performance and limits based on driver preference. These software solutions can adjust everything from torque and horsepower to speed limiters and fuel economy.
With these software advancements, connected car technologies will leverage internal and external data to improve vehicle functionality. Consider this: You’re driving along the highway in light snow, and as the roads become icy, your vehicle makes calculated adjustments to improve safety. Or, to take it a step further, imagine if you could disable your teen’s vehicle to keep them from driving in the snow until they have more experience behind the wheel in poor weather conditions. These are the types of changes on the horizon. By taking cues from the environment and from the driver behind the wheel, a vehicle will be able to adjust and personalize, guaranteeing the most customized, optimized, and safe driving experience possible.
This interactive driving on the part of the vehicle is what makes the technology so appealing. If a vehicle’s speed can be restricted based on the speed limit of a specific road, or the vehicle can change the way an engine and transmission operate based on the terrain, it truly becomes a better machine for both the driver and the environment. Consumers will find that every preference is accounted for and catered to.
The implications of technology like this go beyond an unprecedented in-cabin experience or a safer, more comfortable daily commute; they represent the ultimate personalization of our day-to-day tools. First for cell phones and now for cars, everything is being developed to be as unique as we are. Dynamic personalization is the way of the future, transforming a machine into your personal mobility solution. For cars on the market today, this might look like an engine calibrated for fuel efficiency or general performance, but in the future, each car will reflect the specific needs of the driver and their evolving ecosystem. From the simplest adjustment to the most meaningful change in performance, vehicles will be able to offer true customization — migrating away from the one-size-fits-all assembly line and transporting us to a software-driven, personalized automotive experience.
David Thawley is the CEO of Derive Systems, a software company that empowers customers to take control of their vehicles.