Connected cars are starting to gain a foothold in the automobile market. A study commissioned by Spanish telecommunications provider Telefonica points up some of the needs and expectations of consumers in this field.

Connected Cars Bringing Safety Improvements and Reduced Expenditure

“The overall number of vehicles with built-in connectivity will increase from 10% of the overall market today to 90% by 2020,” predicted Telefonica in its Connected Car Industry Report 2013. Following on from last year’s report, the Spanish telecoms provider this year commissioned a survey* designed to dig deeper into user expectations and provide some pointers for automobile manufacturers looking to develop connected functionality in their vehicles. The Telefonica analysts observed the direct impact of connected car offerings on the choices made by savvy consumers, whose expectations are growing, encouraged by such initiatives as the forthcoming EU eCall legislation designed to ensure rapid assistance to motorists involved in accidents, plus the rapid development of communications and mobile networks and the increasing interest in the automobile sector shown by information and communication technology developers. The report reveals that drivers are looking for a radical improvement in the overall driving experience and more precise information on the running status of their vehicle.

Evolving driving habits set to achieve greater safety and convenience

It comes as no surprise to learn that 73% of the drivers quizzed mentioned safety as their number one concern and are interested in in-car systems targeting this aspect. Beyond this however, the car – hitherto rather closed off to the outside world when running on the road – is now opening up to outside interaction as manufacturers increasingly integrate ‘infotainment’ services into the vehicle. The latest functionality enables you to set up music playlists which click in automatically when you get into your car, and the telephone can now be integrated in a more intuitive fashion into the vehicle, allowing drivers to stay connected throughout their journey.  Meanwhile connected car technology that enables your mobile device to function as a diagnostic tool is especially popular with drivers, 60% of those polled agreeing that they would like to be able to use their smartphone or tablet to check their car’s condition before setting out on a long journey. Clearly, as general consumer habits evolve, this will in turn lead to alterations in the relationship between driver and car.

Reducing car-related expenditure

Meanwhile the report indicates that in the medium term alternative road travel options are likely to see more widespread take-up. Just over half of the survey respondents expected that by 2034 they would not actually own a car but would be using alternative, more economical, options such as car-sharing services. Also on the cost reduction front, over 40% of those polled liked the idea of incorporating connected systems into their cars in order to take advantage of usage-based insurance services. The British Insurance Brokers’ Association has released research on this type of ‘behaviour-based car insurance’ – aka ‘black-box insurance’ – in cars and believes that implementing such an approach could save drivers up to 25% on their policies. Maintenance and fuel efficiency are also on the list of items on which every driver would like to save money and solutions to help drivers in this area are clearly a high priority. Manufacturers are looking for ways and means to set out precise fuel costs and give advice on how to reduce consumption. The Telefonica report makes no predictions for future vehicle prices but however necessary embedded technologies are deemed to be, they will certainly come at a cost. Consumers seem keen to have a range of connected systems in their vehicles but how far they are willing to pay for the new functionality remains an unknown factor.

*The Telefonica ‘Connected Car Industry Report 2014’ was written on the basis of a survey carried out among 5,012 people in Spain, Germany, the UK, the United States and Brazil from 13 to 20 January 2014.

By Lucie Frontière