Consumers appear uncertain about connected cars

Tech companies target automotive sector as new area for growth

While Google’s recent demonstration of a driverless car captured the imagination of some drivers, many still do not have even a basic understanding of what constitutes a connected car. Photograph: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

While Google’s recent demonstration of a driverless car captured the imagination of some drivers, many still do not have even a basic understanding of what constitutes a connected car. Photograph: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Mon, Jul 21, 2014, 01:20

Earlier this year, Apple announced CarPlay, a system that uses Siri for voice control and a new iOS-like interface to the car’s touch screen. Many of the world’s largest tech companies are pursuing the automotive sector as new area for growth.

Yet while the likes of Apple and Google have introduced operating systems specifically for cars, many people don’t appear to be interested in downloading applications and keeping up to speed with social networks while they drive, according to a research by the Spanish telecom giant Telefónica of people in the United States, Britain, Germany, Spain and Brazil.

Instead, the company said, people are most interested in emergency alert systems and notices about maintenance for their cars. But the company is expecting consumer expectations to move beyond those desires, too.

“The type of safety features will continue to expand,” said Pavan Mathew, Telefonica’s head of connected cars, which refers to vehicles that use sensors and internet connections to communicate with the outside world. “As the category grows, consumers’ frame of reference of what services are available also will expand.”

Understanding

As Western markets become saturated with high-end smartphones, device makers such as Apple and Samsung have started looking for new areas of growth, including the healthcare and automotive sectors.

Yet while Google’s recent demonstration of a driverless car captured the imagination of some drivers, many still do not have even a basic understanding of what constitutes a connected car, the report said.

The lack of awareness could pose obstacles for tech companies looking to build on people’s seemingly insatiable desire for the latest smartphone, application and wearable device, as companies try to make a beachhead in the automotive industry.

“We’ve been building connected cars for years,” said John Ellis, head of the developer programme at Ford, who contributed to Telefónica’s report. “People’s buying decisions are becoming based on connectivity and entertainment.”

As carmakers and technology companies collect an increasing amount of information about drivers through their connected devices, some consumer groups have voiced concerns that individuals’ privacy may come under threat.

But privacy doesn’t seem to be a top issue for many people. Almost half of the 6,000 people in Telefónica’s study said that the safety and entertainment benefits offered by a connected car would outweigh any potential risk to their privacy.

And in a sign that people’s concerns may be only skin deep, almost 40 per cent of the people said they would be willing to share information about their driving style and location if they could get discounts on car insurance.

In contrast, less than a third of people said they would never share information from their connected car, according to Telefónica’s study. – (New York Times)

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