In 2013 more people will access the Internet from their phones than they will their PCs, according to Gartner. This milestone represents a tipping point for information technology as a whole, but also for automotive developers and marketers. The information-at-your-fingertips age is setting new expectations among car owners and drivers. And according to J.D. Power last month, demand for technology options surpassed safety options for new car buyers.
During the 2010 Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris, BMW demonstrated the possibilities for online use made possible by the WiFi hotspot function, which provides rear-seat passengers using a notebook or iPad with wireless internet access.
Whether delivered directly through consumers’ mobile devices or through in-vehicle electronics, there is a large movement of online content into the vehicle experience. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that many drivers prefer to bring their web and mobile media behaviors into the vehicle. While Ford’s SYNC technology has grabbed a number of headlines touting online data brought into the car, other recent examples include:
- OnStar + Facebook: GM announced they are testing and in-vehicle application allows owners to read text messages aloud, listen to Facebook status updates / news feeds, and update their own Facebook profiles
- BMW + Apple iPad: A docking port allows owners to connect their existing Apple product to their car, and use the device to control in-car audio, video, etc. Mercedes-Benz just announced a similar integration
- Audi + Google Earth: Audi recently announced the integration of Google Earth into their navigation interface for the A8. Drivers will see 3D satellite imagery and many layers of additional information based on their location
- Mercedes-Benz + Pandora: Mercedes drivers can now stream Pandora through either an iPhone or BlackBerry with Bluetooth streaming audio. Drivers can control Pandora with the steering-wheel buttons
- MyFord Touch/MyLincoln Touch: The technology offers voice activation of multiple web-connected apps such as Pandora and Stitcher.
This space is going to progress very quickly and we expect to see many more partnerships and integrated information services announced soon.
The 2011 Audi A8 integrates Google Earth and terrain-mapping into its 8-inch LCD screen.
For manufacturers, consumer technology has now become the top driving force behind automobile industry progress. As an early example Ford has now sold more than two million cars with SYNC and 80 percent of potential buyers said Sync favorably impressed them.
According to KPMG, manufacturers are shifting focus from quality improvement to new technology products. Many automotive marketers are quickly realizing that while the competition around price, fuel economy, and quality is tight, technology is a key way to differentiate and consumers are listening.
Full disclosure: Ford Motor Company is a Razorfish client; Razorfish is the digital agency of record for Mercedes-Benz USA.
- Gartner Highlights Key Predictions for IT Organizations and Users in 2010 and Beyond; Gartner Press Release, 1.13.10
- Car Buyers Rank Entertainment Over Safety; AOL Autos, 10.16.10
- GM testing OnStar Facebook and texting functionality; Autoblog, 8.08.10
- BMW and Mercedes-Benz to Add Mounts for iPad; New York Times, 10.14.10
- Google Earth Comes to Audi A8; Mashable, 12.17.09
- Now Pandora audio will stream in your Mercedes-Benz; USA Today, 10.18.10
- Pandora, Stitcher First Of Many Voice-Driven Ford MyTouch Apps; The Car Connection, 1.07.10
- Ford Sync Hits 2 Million Mark; Edmunds Inside Line, 3.24.10
- 7 amazing advances in new car technology; Bankrate.com, 2010 Spring Auto Guide