Automotive and consumer electronics integration, vehicle electrification and connected-vehicle technologies are leading the way toward the development of cars that don’t crash, devices that don’t distract and powertrains that don’t pollute. Automotive technology has extended far beyond the vehicle itself. Onboard vehicle technologies combined with vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-roadside technologies are creating many new and exciting product and service opportunities for specialty-equipment and performance aftermarket manufacturers, installers, retailers and distributors. The challenges, opportunities and solutions for SEMA members lie in how effectively these features, devices and accessories can be integrated into today’s vehicles. Connected vehicles have the potential to avoid crashes and make the transportation grid more efficient. Green performance and connected-vehicle technologies are quickly merging to create new business and product-development opportunities in integrating automotive and consumer electronics apps and solutions.
More than half of the new vehicles offered in the next five years will support applications through car-radio platforms. By 2017, more than 13 million vehicles will be sold globally with connected-vehicle platforms. Aftermarket suppliers currently provide more than 35 radios supporting apps via smartphone integration and new operating systems such as the Android that was featured on the Clemson Deep Orange vehicle displayed at the SEMA Show last November.
Telematics and connected-vehicle technologies may not seem that pervasive in the automotive aftermarket yet, but that is changing quickly, as evidenced by the new vehicles on display at this year’s auto shows. Ford’s voice-activated SYNC platform continues to evolve with new features and capabilities and has been installed in more than 3 million vehicles. Over 80% of Ford buyers take the SYNC option, and Hyundai is launching its own system called Blue Link. Millions of people have powerful smart phones that are loaded with a variety of capabilities such as Pandora’s internet radio app that consumers can use in their vehicles. BMW’s Mini and aftermarket companies are taking advantage of Apple’s iPhone capabilities and offering an automotive-grade iPod interface that supports Apple’s iPod Out through the Mini connected system. The iPod screen appears in the vehicle’s display screen. Drivers are familiar with the screen, so it is less distracting than adding another interface.
Distracted driving is certainly a concern for both OEMs and aftermarket companies that are providing connected-vehicle products, apps and solutions. An estimated 20% of injury crashes were reported to have involved driver distraction. Glances away from the road for more than two seconds for any purpose double the risk of a crash or near crash. Many drivers — particularly GenYers, which is the largest generation ever — understand the risk and will find ways to stay connected and be on the grid while driving. Forcing them to go off the grid and not be connected with their friends and networks while driving is not a feasible solution.
The app is just as important as the content. I asked a panel of six experts at a recent SAE discussion on automotive and consumer electronics what feature, function, system or app would be most significant in the next five years and if it would come from inside or outside the auto industry. Five of the six said it would come from outside the auto industry. The recently introduced aftermarket version of OnStar is embedded in a replacement rearview mirror and sells for $299 plus a $100 installation. Expect more automakers, aftermarket suppliers, app developers and installers to form collaborative partnerships to leverage infotainment innovations and capitalize on this growing market.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally summed up vehicle connectivity very well when he said: “It’s cool to connect. But it’s past cool. It’s a reason to buy!” If you think it’s too connected, you are too old. SEMA recently met with Peter Appel, administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) to discuss vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology and other advanced automotive electronics opportunities for SEMA members. SEMA is working with RITA leadership to promote the aftermarket industry’s contributions to deploying V2V and onboard technologies.