By: Eric Hamblett
Recently, I embarked on two week road trip and relied solely on my smartphone for directions, recommendations and communication. Yet whether I was finding hotels, places to eat or tickets to buy, my device was constantly overheating. I wanted to engage during this “down time” but had no hands free way to do so. It became obvious to me that cars have potential to bridge a necessary gap in local search.
Doing some research I learned that companies such as BMW and Audi have already created their own infotainment systems, integrating with Google and Yelp to keep drivers informed. Yet, this proprietary technology has several limitations. The most apparent one is that it does not automatically sync with the smartphone in the driver’s pocket.
If the auto industry is determined to connect cars with the web, then the key to this will be integrating mobile software. One example of this is Apple’s newest feature, iOS7 in the Car. This concept allows drivers to access their full suite of iPhone features from behind the wheel, utilizing Siri for a hands free experience.
In a recent article from Street Fight, Ali Alami outlined several ways mobile development could interface with in-car experiences. The most revealing to me were opportunities to solve Data, Context and sharing issues from within a vehicle.
Issues with growing data usage in cars could be solved with connecting infotainment systems to wifi networks when vehicles are parked. The Nissan Leaf currently does this to update application data within its system.
A “smart car” can detect its context in relation to factors such as vehicle maintenance and traffic patterns. For example, if interior work is required, it can promote local services, or if traffic is bad, perhaps food options along the way.
This will allow drivers to share “ambient location” data in real time. Glympse is a company that has partnered with Ford and BMW to share detailed information from car to device such as speed, what music is playing and destination information.
The best use case for these “smart cars” will be in suburban America, where vehicles are an irreplaceable part of life. If you think of how a company such as FourSquare has gamified walkable cities, imagining a car platform doing the same for suburbia isn’t so far off. I know I hope my next car has some of these tools built in.