Smart Car – the Next Big Gadget!


Would you choose to splurge an additional 10,000 rupees to smarten up your existing car with add-on capabilities such as smartphone integration? Well, most tech-savvy users would say yes. What if I say add-ons can’t possibly provide the level of competence that a grounds-up connected design can bring?

You would rather go for a ‘connected car’ –than ingesting extra intelligence into your analogue car. The future is connected. Soon you may find yourself weighing these two options more than others as you plan to buy your next car.

And the good news is cars with on-board computers have already hit the market in a price bracket that makes them a sensible pick for many. We have one in India too.

Just like technologies transformed several industry verticals over the last few years, new car tech is making over the automotive sector with serious inroads already made. A major shift in how we transport is underway with new sophisticated technologies bringing together mammoth computing power, millions of lines of programming codes and new hardware into the car. Software and telecommunications companies are entering the auto market where big companies including Microsoft, Google, Apple, IBM are making significant strides.

Soon considering a new vehicle without Internet access and communication capabilities will be history. As a matter of fact, expectations for multitude of car owners have started mounting on prioritizing connectivity over standard features such as engine power and fuel efficiency.

To put things in context, connected car refers to the vehicle which has the intelligence --driven by Internet connectivity and sensors; to optimize its operation and maintenance while ensuring superior driving handiness for commuters. The latest headways in the connected car tech are expected to be a major attraction at the consumer electronics exhibition in Las Vegas next month.

Envisage a car which is powered by an operating system like Android, an audio system that pulls data directly from your iPhone based on voice commands, plays Spotify when you get into your car and intimates you well in advance when it needs maintenance. Well, it's not that easy as it sounds. Making your car as connected as your smartphone calls for a collaboration of partners including networks, operating systems, content platforms and analytics. Let’s take a look at the core components.

The functional clusters of connected car

Infotainment: What if your onboard computer displays nearby restaurants the moment you say ‘I’m hungry’ or notifies you about gas stations as you approach them? This sounds like a true value addition of Internet enablement.

Safety: For a car owner, road side assistance actually mean a real savior, especially in cases of accidents. Studies show that collision-avoidance systems that caution drivers could be a boon in preventing accidents.

Diagnostics: This is an area where connected car gives you an edge with its ability to alert drivers to needed servicing or problems with the car. Prognostic tech like the one launched by General Motors takes this even further by letting the driver know of any possible failure in the future. The connected car from Mahindra is also known to be offering predictive maintenance service along with remote diagnostics functionality in the e2oPlus.

Navigation: Another core competence of a smart car is its ability to connect through a built-in GPS or smartphone. When connected to apps outside the car, the driver can receive notification of the best time to leave, real-time traffic and weather updates. This sounds tantalizing for the tech-canny users and this is probably why Mahindra bets big on its connected car offering.

The case for India’s first connected car

With many biggies such as Nissan, making their foray into connected car services, let’s take a look at the first such smart car introduced by the Indian company Mahindra -- which is incidentally the first OEM to build on connected technologies.

The car looks sophisticated with integration of apps that connect with outside world. The pre-cool feature lets you set the temperature remotely. A simple toggle button on the app allows you to lock/unlock the car. From performance metrics and health reports to charging schedules, the chip enables it all.

You never have to worry about being stranded with no charge with the patented REVive technology of the company. If ever you find that the battery has run out and you do not have a charge point close by, you can simply use your e2oPlus app to get additional charge – enough to reach your home or nearest charging point. That sounds really exciting.

The 10 on-board computers in the new e2oPlus car track around 196 performance and health parameters of your car and send them to the company. So even before a snag appears, you’re all geared up to fix it.

The famous maxim ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t track it’ aptly fits the philosophy of this connected car. As you drive down this car you continue to get progress reports with you which help the company to build on car’s performance while transforming your driving experience.

The journey has just begun but with e2oPlus, it seems driving in a conventional non-interactive car is already passé.