By 2020, we are expected to see more than 381 million connected cars on the road. The likes of Tesla, General Motors (GM), Toyota and BMW are already ramping up their respective connected car offerings, with the latter leading the pack — according to the 200 automotive executives surveyed by KPMG.

With that in mind, 2019 should be an interesting year for the connected car landscape. Some of leading industry experts and practitioners help us take a look at the current world of connected cars, and dare to wonder what future could hold.

What Is a Connected Car?

A connected car is a vehicle that is equipped with internet connectivity and, in most cases, a WLAN. This enables the car to access data, send data, download software and patches, communicate with other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and provide WiFi for onboard passengers. 

Lonnie Miller, principal automotive industry consultant at SAS, explained how connected cars came about and how they evolved. “The concept of connected vehicles was introduced in 1996 as a high-end safety feature on General Motors’ Cadillac line. Called OnStar, GM created the service with Motorola Automotive,” Miller explained. In the 20 years since, connected vehicles have evolved to give drivers access to, “safety, security, navigation, infotainment, diagnostics and remote payment features.”

The connected vehicles of today can help you find a parking spot and anticipate a needed repair. “[Today’s] connected car can even help you find premium entertainment options or desired goods and services,” Miller said.

Related Article: What Audio Marketing Is and Why It Should Be a Part of Your Content Strategy

Existing Connected Car Experiences

Currently, car manufacturers are connecting their vehicles in two ways: embedded and tethered. Embedded vehicles utilize a built-in antenna and chipset, whereas tethered connections make use of hardware that enables drivers to connect their cars through their smartphones. “Today, most car makers offer either Apple Carplay or Android Auto in at least some of their models. Such connectivity allows the [mobile] phone to be connected to the car, and everything from calls to music to navigational directions on the phone can be operated via the onscreen display,” said Richard Reina, product training director at CARiD.

Ford recently introduced FordPass Smartlink, a subscription-based dongle that plugs straight into your onboard diagnostics port and gives you access to a handful of smart-vehicle features. It is compatible with Ford vehicles dating back to 2007.

Reina added that almost every car manufacturer is involved in delivering the connected car experience. “GM, Audi and Volvo all provide 4G LTE internet access and Bluetooth connectivity that supports the drivers preferred navigation and music apps. Some luxury brands are beginning to take things a step further, offering what can be described as “concierge services” rolled into their connected cars to further automate daily tasks for drivers,” Reina said.

One example of this is found in some BMW models, where a bundled app integrates with your calendar, messages and other frequently-used apps to ensure you leave on time for your destination and are notified of the best route to get you there.

7 Ways the Connected Car Experience Might Evolve in 2019

With connected car technology expected to evolve in the near future, we asked our leading industry experts and practitioners what we might expect from connected cars in 2019.

1. Alexa-enabled Cars: Select Ford, BMW, Mini, Toyota, Lexus and Volkswagon cars will be Alexa-enabled by the end of 2018, which means 2019 could be a pivotal year for the relationship between smart speakers and cars.

We've discussed the role of Amazon Alexa in the customer experience and in the digital workplace, and these roles could easily reach consumers and employees from the comfort of their own cars — a concept that we will explore later in this article. 

2. A Rise in V2V Connectivity: Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology allows vehicles to communicate with each other and share information on road safety, speed and driving conditions. This concept can be taken a step further by enabling the vehicle to communicate with sensors and devices in the roadway infrastructure.

Reina explained how advancements in V2V connectivity will play a crucial role in autonomous driving. “Going beyond consumer-facing applications of connected cars, we can expect to see continued research into how the connected car technology will play a role in autonomous driving. This is called V2V connectivity. When all cars are 'driving themselves,' vehicles on the road need a safe and reliable way to communicate with each other to keep traffic moving and passengers safe,” Reina explained.

3. A Further Reduction in Number of Accidents: Miller added that, another benefit of V2V connectivity is that it can potentially reduce the number of accidents occurring on our roads. “Vehicles communicating with each other and roadway infrastructures will become more prominent as automakers allow drivers to inform each other about dangerous road conditions or available parking. Volvo Cars and Trucks do this now, but more automakers plan to offer this basic benefit in the future to support safety and convenience,” Miller said.

Learning Opportunities

4. Lower Insurance Premiums: Connected car technology and sensors will enable car manufacturers to get a deeper understanding of your driving habits. Car manufacturers can use this data to provide drivers with alerts and prompts to encourage them to be more mindful. This data, as Miller explained, can be passed on to insurance providers. “The vehicle you drive in the future may increasingly use sensors and other connected technologies to monitor habits like your braking and acceleration behavior. That data can be used to alert you to slow down and drive safer, and insurance companies can use the data as an incentive to help you to save on your insurance premiums,” Miller explained.

5. Safer Vehicles: In addition to lowering insurance premiums, car manufacturers can also use this data to identify any flaws in their engineering and make the necessary improvements. “Automakers and their suppliers will use connected vehicle data to build and design better vehicles. [For example], if a new [car] model is known for having acceleration issues, manufacturing engineers can use the data to fine tune that model’s performance before the next release,” Miller shared.

6. Increased Security: As with any connected device, concerns will be raised about privacy and security around the data gathered by a connected car. Furthermore, Todd Walter, chief technologist at Teradata, commented on how data from a connected car is “arguably more sensitive.”

“There will be a lot more focus on privacy and security of these new technologies. The information from the connected car is arguably more sensitive than our credit card information. [It shares information on] where we go, when we go there, when we are home, where we shop and work, where our kids go to school, and what locations we go to at what time,” Walter explained.

Walter continued to say that both legal and political entities will be heavily involved in creating new laws and regulations regarding this issue.  

7. Fewer Cars, More Driving: Interestingly, while the number of connected cars will certainly rise, the number of cars on our roads will eventually fall. That’s according to Tom Koulopoulos, founder of Delphi Group. “According to our own research, our projections show that by 2034 the number of US automobiles will double from today's numbers and peak at about 500 million cars on the road. However, after that, a precipitous decline in on-road cars will occur, bringing total cars on the road to 33 million by 2050,” Koulopoulos said.

The reason for this is startling. Koulopoulos states that, “Connectivity will allow autonomous vehicles to operate 23 hours out of the day.”

Connected Cars: Yet Another Arm of the Digital Workplace?

With these seven forecast trends in mind, organizations can look to the connected car industry as a way to increase worker efficiency outside of the office — and even outside of their homes.

With connected cars driving themselves, organizations can leverage their own cars to ferry workers from their homes to the office, out to client meetings and back home again — all without ever separating those workers from a comfortable and connected working environment that’s fully integrated into the digital workplace.

It’s not a trend that we’ll see in 2019, but as the connected car industry evolves, it’s certainly an interesting prospect for brands to explore.

What's your take on the connected car industry?