Connected Cars: Mitigating the Risks to Reap the Rewards

Performance and reliability have been the cornerstones of every successful car brand since the birth of the automotive industry. As important as they are, individual brand qualities—think: Ferraris winding their way across Monaco or a family of four belted safely inside their Volvo—mean little if a vehicle cannot consistently perform as it should.

 With the rise of in-car connected services, such as entertainment, navigation systems and safety features, the same expectation for performance and dependability is quickly shifting into the realm of software and connectivity. Manufacturers will need to ensure that their connected services are just as reliable as their vehicles’ engines and airbags. While Australia is getting out of making cars, the connected motoring trend matters to every business that’s involved in the industry in after-market and other ancillary ways.
 

With a quarter of a billion connected vehicles expected to be on the road by 2020, connectivity will be a primary area for growth in the car business, and players must be equipped to provide an array of reliable services that meet the demands of today’s customers.
 

Great opportunities, great risks

The increase in connected services means both great opportunity and great risk for carmakers. Any company still standing in the competitive space of car manufacturing has already weathered a variety of storms. They must now also meet this challenge head on, or risk being left behind. Google and Apple, for instance, have both turned their attention to connected car projects, meaning companies with a strong heritage in technology will also be competing for a slice of the market.  
 

As a result, car manufacturers have been racing to form partnerships with major telecoms and technology providers to ensure they have the tools to stay on top. Audi recently announced a deal with Huawei, China’s largest telecoms company, to provide in car connectivity, and Ford has partnered with Microsoft to provide cloud-based in car services. If done right, partnerships that combine expertise from car manufacturers and tech providers can be formidable and will increase the likelihood that connected services live up to expectations.
 

Getting infotainment services right

Infotainment services will be one of the biggest growth areas for car manufacturers. For now, most infotainment services will take the form of integrated systems that connect to the user’s smartphone in order to instantly transfer their personalised apps to the car. But in the near future we’ll see everything from advertisers who run targeted ads based on a car’s location to streaming services that play music to match the scenery. With so many possibilities, it’s no wonder automotive manufacturers and technology partners are battling to become the best at supplying these new services.
 
There are a huge number of factors involved in these integrated infotainment systems—including the in-car technology, the phone’s operating system and the performance of the smartphone app—and providing a positive user experience depends on a seamless integration of them all. 

Yet Consumer Reports’ 2015 Annual Auto Reliability Survey found that problematic infotainment systems are amongst the top issues reported by new car owners.
 
With applications constantly being updated, issues of compatibility are bound to arise as new updates are released, but if it becomes a regular occurrence both the app developer and car manufacturer risk consumers’ dissatisfaction. 
 

It is critical that all parties involved have visibility into their applications down to the code level at all times. By implementing application performance monitoring for example, developers can identify compatibility complications immediately and send fixes to their applications automatically online, solving any bugs contained within apps long before the consumer even notices them and allowing the services to perform effectively at all times.
 

Safety leaves no room for error

Advances in safety features are among the most promising and impactful changes connected cars will offer. When speaking about their work in the autonomous driving space, Volvo points to fewer traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities as being extremely important considerations.

This is an area where manufacturers and technology partners have no room for error. Companies that fail to implement safety systems effectively could face enormous reputational or even legal damage, to say nothing of the human toll. Any glitches or security breaches of these safety systems will simply not be tolerated and could provide disastrous for carmakers and technology providers.
 
Safety features must come in the form of embedded systems containing the hardware, software and connectivity functions required in one unit. Car manufacturers can then ensure that safety devices within vehicles are ready to be activated if needed. By using firewalls that separate safety devices from other, less essential functions on the network, manufacturers can prevent any superfluous glitches from placing these essential mechanisms at risk.  
 

Embracing a new era of performance
In some ways, one might say consumers’ expectations for car manufacturers have changed very little—they still expect consistent performance and dependability above all else. That expectation has simply been extended to include connected services. As a result, there can no be such a thing as a reliable vehicle with unreliable connected services, in the consumer’s eye. Carmakers stand much to gain if they can pair technological innovations with the performance credentials that have long been key to their success.
 

Andrew Brockfield is the Australia & New Zealand Country Manager for AppDynamics, Inc.