View from India: The road ahead – connected cars and connectivity

Indian drivers are increasingly looking for connectivity and improved in-vehicle user experiences in their cars. Given the lower prices and the large market for small to mid-segment cars in India, many manufacturers are launching significantly de-featured versions of their connectivity platforms.

The car has gone from being a largely mechanical device a decade ago to having a host of embedded software. “A modern car may have 80 different computers controlling the different functions in the vehicle, and perhaps millions of lines of software code to implement many of those functions. Growth in functionality is driven mostly by safety, consumer, and connectivity needs. Technology companies are potential partners rather than competitors,” said Sudipta Ghosh, partner and leader - data and analytics, PwC India.

Technology innovation leaders continue to make waves with initiatives such as self-driving cars and new offerings in the software market – connectivity platforms for cars– with leading examples being Apple CarPlay and Android auto offerings.

Sasken Technologies, a specialist in product engineering and digital transformation, is partnering with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to access to their custom on-board diagnostics (OBD)/ Controller Area Network (CAN) messages for secure ‘write’ access to their CAN-bus, enabling interesting use-cases like the remote control of car features such as door locks and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

“With the consumer demanding a seamless user-experience between home, work and car, we at Sasken have integrated vehicle telematics control unit (TCU) with a standards-based home gateway solution that enables use-cases like setting the home temperature same as that of the car by the time the driver gets home,” said Ram Ramaseshan - senior VP and head - automotive and industrials BUs, Sasken Technologies.

As the connected car matures technologically, it will influence market trends and automakers’ relationships. “Features like safety sensors, detailed engine maintenance signals and smartphone integration are already becoming common in new upmarket vehicles. Industry leadership will shift, in some cases, to new players, while conventional OEMs will be pressed to substantially accelerate their drive for innovation – not just in technology, but in their cultures, expansion strategies, talent building and management areas,” reasoned Kavan Mukhtyar, partner and leader – auto, PwC India.

With the rapid proliferation of 4G in India, connected in-car entertainment is increasingly becoming an expectation. “India is one of the biggest in-car entertainment markets in Asia-Pacific region.  According to 6Wresearch, the India in-car entertainment market is projected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.3 per cent during 2015-2021. Infotainment features have steadily grown in the Indian market due to consumer demand, and have made their way into mid and low-end models as well,” added Ramaseshan.

Infotainment has come a long way from originally being an optional or after-market accessory to being a factory-fitted integral part of the car. Users would like to see it as an extension of their personal phones and would like these infotainment systems to be equally capable. What started as small-time screen-mirroring application has evolved through the ranks of car play/ Android Auto to a fully functional Android/html based in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) backed by an app-rich market place.

“In the consumer luxury segment, OEMs have launched offerings with infotainment features such as Android Auto for calls, navigation, app support for essential connected apps, an intelligent system for optimising fuel consumption and emissions. Other auto manufacturers include an intelligent information platform for consumers that enables smartphone integration to provide access to information on the vehicle and related services,” highlighted Ghosh.

Mobile navigation apps are already in use, such those which connect to the driver’s phone to act as a navigation system that enhances the driving experience by highlighting turns ahead and display places of interest such as restaurants and fuel stations. These are likely to become part of a series of mainstream offerings from automotive OEMs.

“For vehicular automation, intelligent transport systems that allow vehicles to communicate with other vehicles (V2V), pedestrians (V2P), and infrastructure (V2I) have already been in development. They are being used in some spheres with a degree of standardisation and regulatory support through spectrum allocation for intelligent transport systems, and proof-of-concept deployment initiatives taken by government departments,” Mukhtyar noted. With OEMs pushing into connected vehicle offerings and support from government initiatives, similar developments are expected to gain pace in the Indian market as well.

Given the smart-city initiatives gaining momentum, we will see more and more cities make infrastructure-based investment that would lend itself to implementing V2V and V2I use-cases. Sasken Technologies is currently working with tier-ones and OEMs in the US, along with cities and connectivity providers to address use-cases such as line traffic management and emergency management.

We will begin to see more and more people move away from owning a car to ride-sharing and renting a car. This puts immense pressure on OEMs to keep innovating to stay relevant for the consumers. “Our offerings are aligned to what millennials expect in the cars of today and we are working on concepts such as Android-based IVI and a validation framework for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). We are leveraging our data-analytics/ machine-learning and artificial-intelligence capabilities to improve driving experience, cost benefits both for consumer and OEM respectively,” declared Ramaseshan.

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