Can the Connected Car Deliver the Next Generation Driving Experience?

The Aricent team is thrilled to have attended CES 2015 this month, where we demonstrated our new capabilities for the much-anticipated connected car, focusing on user design and consumer expectations.

This year, a record 10 auto manufacturers held exhibits in Las Vegas and gave an astounding three keynote speeches on auto technology. They are also occupying 17 percent more floor space than last year. While it is exciting to see the renewed interest in the auto sector, especially combined with the synergy between vehicle and consumer electronics, I think the focus on user and driver experience can be enhanced.

Looking at various developments, devices and technologies from a consumer perspective is important to determine the likelihood that buyers will use a product or service – and if they will develop a loyalty to that brand. Among the top reasons that consumers buy – and continue to buy – is the experience while using it and experience thereafter. The most important user-experiences include:

  • Ease of use: Consumers want to open the box, configure and start using the product without reading an instruction manual.
  • Intuitive: The product should not expect the user to have to relearn or learn new things. This includes philosophy of colors, icons, menu depth, and so on.
  • Integrates with the ecosystem: The product should work with other devices/assets and work seamlessly without technical expertise.
  • Sales experience: Product information needs to be readily available on all sales channels to compare to similar products and make quick decisions.
  • Incredible support: Products should have an intelligent support system fluent in assisting consumers and that can almost predict needs and questions. A little human interaction doesn’t hurt either.
  • Easy transition: The products should facilitate the upgrade to newer models and versions during the ownership lifecycle and when it’s time to replace products.

From a consumer perspective the decision to buy a product or service is about the experience across the entire journey right from deciding to purchase to selling the product. But the market for today’s connected car thwarts these rules, with multiple points leaving the customers waiting for more usable designs. For instance, after the purchase of a new a car there is a need for user authentication on the owner’s portal, on the mobile app, on the head unit and any other app that needs to be used. Among many things, user authentication is just one item and can make the entire experience messy.

As creators of technology, companies need to be aware that the overall car ownership experience has not significantly changed in a few decades – granted there are online tools available for comparison, vehicle records etc., but the fundamentals have not been altered. Let’s take examples of retail or banking industry, which have advanced significantly in the number of channels through which they interact with the customer. Mobile and social technologies have also transformed the entire purchase lifecycle.

When we consider vehicle technologies, today’s auto has more power, enhanced safety aspects and an explosion of consumer electronics, mobile internet and communication technologies. This technology explosion has altered consumer expectations about vehicle capabilities, how their auto interacts with them and how it interacts with other devices.

We anticipate consumer expectations to continue to grow, and, as they do, it will become increasingly important for manufacturers and their partners to deliver on user experience. Below are three simple and effective strategies that, when implemented correctly, will bring consumers the digital experience they expect and deserve:

  1. Integrate all customer facing digital properties and provide a unified and consistent interface. This goes beyond interaction design and allows consumers to experience the brand across their entire journey.
  2. Blend newer technologies into the existing consumer’s digital ecosystem. For instance, letting consumers choose their authentication mode, allowing them to bring their favorites across multiple devices and integration with existing digital services.
  3. Empathize with the consumers who will be using the technology. Customers have to feel that technology is addressing their pain point consistently over a sustained period to appreciate the value. For example, enabling consumers to seamlessly switch between Wi-Fi and Cellular connection.
  4. Lastly, it is absolutely important that experiences be designed in the field and not in a conference room. Taking the designers out for a drive under different conditions such as being stuck in a traffic jam for a few hours, bad weather and so on will help them appreciate the nuances of design based on conditions.

In order to ensure a viable future for the connect car, manufacturers must alter the design process to deliver user-experiences that make driving not only pleasurable, but also safer and more efficient. The new driving experience in the connected car must seamlessly blend into consumers’ current and future digital lifestyles to see a growth and increased demand.

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