Cars have always had a connection with culture, growing and adapting with consumers. Now, the emphasis is on keeping consumers connected with their digital lifestyle. The headlines may go to an iPhone that looks like a pair of Crocs or the Twitter IPO but the real tech race is in automotive. It has long been undervalued how much time consumers spend in their vehicles. With a customer base that often has the fear of missing out (FOMO), it is imperative to keep them connected at all possible times.
Henry Ford is famous for saying, "You can have any color as long as it's black." Now, automotive consumers expect and demand personalization and connectivity.
General Motors has a newly formed Global Connected Consumer (GCC) group, that is focused on developing connected vehicles. Leading in this space is Nick Pudar, Director of Developer Eco-Systems for General Motor’s Global Connected Consumer. He explains their latest efforts, a few out-of-the-box ideas and the opportunities automakers have to keep consumers connected.
Barrett: How does your approach differ from other automakers?
Pudar: We recognize that a connected vehicle must fit with the lives of our customers. And that means that the connectivity must provide elegant solutions for when they are in their vehicle, and also for when they are not in their vehicles. We are enabling our vehicles with built-in 4G/LTE connectivity to bring content into the vehicle. This content will include an in-vehicle WiFi hotspot, a growing marketplace of in-vehicle apps, and additional value-added features. We are also providing a rich set of connectivity tools for developers to explore applications that remotely connect to our vehicles, like the OnStar RemoteLink app for example. Of course, this all built around a secure and robust customer consent process.
Barrett: How have you applied this approach? What kind of events have you participated in lately?
Pudar: We have been to several developer conferences and have engaged directly with the developer communities around the country to understand their needs and to adapt our tools and processes. We have also sponsored a number of hackathons, which are a great way for developers to learn about the new automotive connected platform. The hackathons unleash some very creative ideas. We’ve seen ideas such as driving instructions for learners, realtime performance and efficiency driving feedback, location services tied to other app services, automatic reconciliation and reporting of personal vehicle use for business expenses and tax reporting, etc. Developers are recognizing that the vehicle, as a component of our daily lives, can be an important part of our digital and connected solution space.
Barrett: Given your consumer research, what does the average car buyer look for now when looking to buy? How important are apps in that decision making process?
Pudar: People want to buy great cars, and their expectation of what is great evolves over time. Historically, cars have not received upgrades after purchase in the same way that more of our consumer electronics products do. Growing expectations of vehicles being part of our digital lifestyles presents a challenge if a vehicle can’t change – especially when you add in the fact that people are holding on to their vehicles longer. That is why our in-vehicle AppShop is an important part of the solution. After you buy your vehicle, there will be new apps that we approve for the car that will bring new functionalities and solutions for our customers.
Barrett: How do you see vehicle technology and user experience evolving over the next 12-24 months.
Pudar: We see the early trends of more apps, greater connectivity expectations, faster speeds, and innovative custom solutions – all growing in importance for our customers. In the next 12-24 months our customers will have vehicles that are much more personalized to their specific needs, while also offering some of the fastest connectivity speeds in cars with built-in 4G LTE. We are confident that we have architected the right systems, and we are excited by the innovative solutions yet to be created by developers.