Information Clutter and the Connected Vehicle
By Leo McCloskey, Vice President, Marketing, Airbiquity Inc.
The task of driving from one location to another is relatively straightforward. It may be occasionally, or even predictably frustrating, but the act of entering the vehicle cockpit, starting the engine, engaging the transmission, and driving to a destination has seen very little change across the decades.
This seemingly bland task is entering a period of change more revolutionary than the invention of the modern automobile. The automobile is about to be connected to the modern world, along with a great many other “things.” The car, unlike nearly every other connected machine, will have multiple connections each with its own information and entertainment sources. This hyper-connected, hyper-personalized transportation product will, in the coming decades, practically eliminate roadway accidents, injuries, and fatalities by removing the most unpredictable variable in the driving equation – the human driver.
An industry that has advanced the state of electro-mechanical automotive engineering to such great heights is slowly coming to grips with the impact of information and communications technology. This is what Thilo Koslowski of Gartner calls “vehicle ICT.” Automakers will manufacture connected vehicles in great volume over the coming years. These vehicles will include information security architectures, complex information technology integration among vehicle systems, significant real-time local processing, and contain as many as three different network connections. Such design considerations are novel additions to the automotive culture. Connected automotive products will have so many potential information sources, in fact, that consideration must be given to information clutter, defined as multiple sources with significant volumes of raw data with little contextual relevance and lacking lifecycle governance.
The first information source will be the automaker, car share company, or other vehicle asset provider. The constant exchange of information relevant to customer, asset tracking, product performance and services rendered will improve the experience of both product and service. Car share services and local and municipal fleets will adopt smartphone “keys” that use near field communication to register and authorize the driver with the vehicle. Similar services would be made available to families, so dependent drivers can be addressed uniquely. Seats, mirrors, and other settings will automatically adjust, based on the smartphone key. Identifying specific drivers with actual vehicle use will maximize fuel economy and reduce accident risk. If the automaker or vehicle provider curates content, packages will be available to download and install on infotainment systems. However, the major benefit from an embedded connection of this type is rapid and informed emergency response. In life-threatening accidents, every minute matters. The business model for this connection may initially challenge market participants, but the benefits outweigh the costs.
The next information source is undergoing its first field trials now in Michigan, USA and is a true machine-to-machine connection. A low latency digital short-range communication (DSRC) network will enable vehicle machines to communicate with other vehicle machines. This Safety Pilot is the first field trial of the exchange of vehicle information between and amongst other connected vehicles. Across this connection, the course and speed of each vehicle is communicated to nearby vehicles. Vehicle systems interpret these signals and provide warnings, alerts, and information to the driver. An example goal would be to reduce risk for a driver turning across traffic through information alerts from proximate vehicles, and even assist the driver with suggestions on timing the crossing. Slowdowns from road debris would be noticeable in the traffic flow, dispatching a roadworks crew before complaint volume builds or accidents occur. Interestingly, the use of Wi-Fi Direct signals from smartphones may enable a pedestrian geo-positioning service, which would provide warnings and alerts for pedestrian-vehicle crossings.
Vehicles, though, are not the only roadway item to be connected. Sensors and communication modules built into the fabric of the roadway creates an information infrastructure to complement the physical transportation infrastructure. Indicators for construction, traffic obstruction, or travel times will be commonplace. Today, these are being provided through large signs above the highway. Tomorrow, they are built into the vehicles we drive and incorporate the vast majority of the road system. Though unlikely to be deployed in significant volume before the end of the decade, this DSRC connection remains an important information architecture consideration.
The connected driver
The last information source is the connected driver. Each driver will carry at least one smart mobile device. These devices represent a hyper-personal communication and infotainment experience for each driver. Integrating these devices into the vehicle is essential for creating a singular cockpit experience where primary cognitive functions are focused on the task of driving. This contrasts with our current stolen glances to these devices, which creates multiple, conflicting experiences within the cockpit. Each of us has noticed drivers interacting with their smartphones while driving. In a moment of private candor, we would each likely acknowledge to having done the same. This cognitive dissonance has market repercussions. Some important voices call for banning the smartphone from the vehicle altogether. The high utility value and addictiveness of the smartphone would indicate this is highly impractical. Incorporating the smart mobile device into the vehicle experience is a better answer, provided it can be tamed and incorporated into the vehicle experience and not interfere with the driving task.
Governing the behavior of all of these services within the vehicle while driving is the most critical item for maintaining safe roadways and continuing the decline in injury and mortality rates. Monitoring and maintaining an experiential information lifecycle for the connected vehicle is required for effective, real-time intelligent handling of multiple information sources. This will eliminate data clutter and enable a highly contextual and well-designed presentation of pertinent information and infotainment.
More importantly, the information sources can be considered within the individual context of a specific driver on a specific journey. With destination and route guidance from a navigation app or service, proximate vehicle and roadway data presentation can be tailored to the journey. For example, if warnings of a traffic slowdown in ten miles were received, the information system would suppress such warnings if the route guidance directs an exit in seven miles.
Governance through role-based and individualized policies is a common IT standard in enterprise and personal computing, and is a relevant comparison for this architecture. Whether for dependent or employee drivers, policies would be applied to the vehicle and govern the in-vehicle experience. As the product owner, consumers will have choices of policies. These could range from a policy that ensures compliance with local distracted driving legislation to one sourced from an insurance carrier that promises reduced rates for driving within designated “good driver” variability regarding speed, acceleration, braking, time of day and other metrics. Designing vehicle resources, such as steering column, touch, voice and speech controls, as remote control for the personal devices unites the mobile, insurance and automotive industries behind a safe driving standard.
The key interest for all parties in the ecosystem of connected vehicles is an everyday positive customer experience. With so much information and communications technology heading both into the vehicle and in supporting cloud service platforms, the vehicle is changing quite radically. Think of the free business model that supports many internet companies. If it’s free, then the customer is the product. The data is chopped and diced and sold off to marketing and business partners. Advertisements proliferate, as do unwanted and unrequested email solicitations. This, though, is the price of free.
To be direct, such an information free-for-all is incompatible with road safety. We may each pay slightly more for such advanced capabilities in the vehicle, but that is much preferred to uncoordinated information flows that lead to distracted driving. Moreover, an enhanced, integrated driving experience achieved through driver-specific profiles and governed by adaptive polices creates a level of customer intimacy that burnishes the brand and creates real stickiness across generations of buyers. Designing vehicles for a clutter-free, information-rich driving experience may be the most rewarding product enhancement in the history of the automotive industry.
About the author:
Leo McCloskey leads Airbiquity’s marketing activities, bringing nearly two decades of experience in networked-services marketing to the company. His expertise in services and networks has been honed in North America, Europe and Japan. He has held senior leadership positions with many companies across his career, including MCI, EDS, Ebone and Terabeam. Mr. McCloskey holds a B.A. in Russian studies and language from Dickinson College.
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