Connected Cars – how automotive blends with IT and how to navigate the new conditions

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Memory lane

How do you define a connected car? Simply put, it has to be able to communicate in two ways with other objects. The first examples of connectivity in personal and commercial vehicles are now more than 20 years old and were all about transmitting data from sensors to the user plus giving simple orders such as close or open. From third-party solutions, car manufacturers realized the importance of connectivity over time and started to work on their own Connected Cars systems. Stepping into a fast-paced IT environment wasn't easy, but today we see a lot of great projects.

Taxonomy of Connected Cars

The following distinction and shortcuts will be handy anytime you want to flex your knowledge

● V2I - vehicle and infrastructure

● V2V - vehicle and vehicle

● V2C - vehicle and cloud

● V2P - vehicle and pedestrian

● V2X - vehicle and everything

Distinction based on the way of interaction:

● Direct interaction between objects

● Through the cloud

● Hybrid (direct and through the cloud)

Why do we need Connected Cars?

Alright, so why do we need cars that mimic computers? We see two main reasons – commercial and social. The V2I, V2V, and V2P types answer the call for safer roads with fewer accidents, more intelligent and smoother traffic in the city, and suitable conditions for uncrewed vehicles. For business, Connected Cars open new horizons in the mobility and transportation areas – be it cost optimization, enhanced traffic and infrastructure algorithms, or real-time data transmission to the car. For car manufacturers, Connected Cars increase costs of development but also present opportunities for new revenue streams. CCs are the entrance to Big Data as cars generate a massive amount of data applicable to statistics (e.g., Industry 4.0, improving the quality of life in the city) and marketing (e.g., a targeted advertisement).

Third parties implementations vs. car manufacturers' solutions

After-Sales implementations provided by third parties were the first CC solutions on the market. They just had to adapt to existing technologies and follow standards and requirements of car manufacturers that don't change very often because the industry tends to be quite conservative and rigid.

Imagine turning a truck into a CC. Take V2C or V2X, for example. You need universal hardware that will interact with widespread technologies that trucks use and a software app to control your hardware. Since changes to hardware specs are rare, the Kanban methodology is a great approach. On the other hand, the app needs to focus on the end user, so a flexible process is more suitable.

What is one of the most frequent feature requests for connected trucks? Yes, it's fuel monitoring. The hardware part is easy – all you need is a device hooked to the onboard computer or the fuel sensor that can transmit data with GPS footprints to the cloud. That's simple because these technologies are usually compatible with most trucks. On the software side, you have more ground to cover. The app can just send the data into an Excel-like sheet, or you can do a lot more, like full integration into the accounting system that will save your users a lot of work.

Either way, After-Sales integrations are straightforward to create thanks to huge standardization and the absence of unnecessary regulations and requirements from governments or car manufacturers, which is excellent! That doesn't mean that developing a successful product would be easy. See our tips below.

As we mentioned, third parties are not the only players in this field. Car manufacturers launch CC services in passenger and commercial vehicles. The most prominent examples of projects that let the user interact with the vehicle at a distance are VW Connect, Mercedes Me Connect, Volvo Connect, etc. Such services allow you to fetch real-time info about your car but also turn on the heating in advance, start the engine, transfer a digital key to your friends or park the car without the driver.

No Connected Cars, no mobility services

Connected Cars are the backbone of car sharing and mobility services. Without the ability to communicate and share information through clouds, you wouldn't be able to rent a car, scooter, or bike online through your phone. While clouds are essential, several features can take a more direct approach through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Full autonomy = holy grail of Connected Cars

Self-driving autonomous cars are another example of the future of CCs. Nowadays, completely independent cars are seen mainly in closed areas and serve particular purposes. Quarrying trucks can transport heavy loads in dangerous environments, and they can communicate not only through the cloud but also with each other, plus with the infrastructure.

Toyota also pioneered self-driving microbuses during the summer Olympics that carried Olympians around the village.

We will see more and more Connected Cars with more sophisticated capabilities in the future. Still, in all cases, companies that want to participate in this industry should understand that there are several stakeholders and deals involved:

  • Alignment and standardization between car manufacturers
  • Alignment with government and compliance with regulations
  • Alignment with companies outside the automotive industry (smartphones, carriers, cloud providers, etc.)

A dynamic environment with new technologies, new customer requirements, ambitious competitors, and evolving policies and standards mean only one thing. Choosing old-school conservative project management and product development methods will lead to significant losses. That's why we advocate for an agile approach that can cope with various setbacks along the way.

How to succeed in the Connected Cars industry

Automotive nowadays relies on flexible methodologies that are well known in digital product development. The most effective one is a flexible approach where progress is made step by step and feedback is collected regularly.

When you develop a final product for automotive, you won't get far without using many different components from various suppliers, so ensuring high quality is a must. Here, the SPICE framework (Software Process Improvement Capability dEtermination) can be constructive as it will help you choose suitable suppliers by comparing their work with a reference model. Many car manufacturers also use automotive SPICE as it helps them evaluate software development processes or embedded systems in the automotive. This framework is based on ISO requirements, and in cars, it's often all about safety and reliability.

Is a rigid framework dictated by extensive experience in car development and production bad? It's not. It can significantly improve the quality of your software product because you have no other option. High quality then means lower support costs and lower jeopardy of reputation damage.

Most web apps are not tied to strict standards, which is cool, but the quality of the code may decrease. We vote for taking inspiration from automotive not only when you aim to launch an app for Connected Cars but whenever you set out on a new journey because standards and frameworks will support the quality of your code and final product.

Reach out for more information.

Pavel, product owner

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