The Future Is Here, With the Connected Car

I remember watching Back to the Future, and specifically Back to the Future II, when I was young.  The movies predicted what it would be like in 2015. There were a lot of futuristic things such as hover boards, new electronics and even flying cars. While we aren’t there with flying cars, we are getting closer with the futuristic features of the Connected Car.
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We’ve all heard the buzz about Connected Cars, but everyone seems to have their own definition of what it is. Some think it’s internet access in your vehicle. But then the conversation quickly expands to consider advanced features such as Wi-Fi, an improved infotainment system, engine/vehicle diagnostics, sensors that help navigate your vehicle and even autonomous driving. The growth in the conversation about, and familiarity with, Connected Cars has been significant over the last couple of years but there’s still a long way to go before the Connected Car becomes mainstream.

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Familiarity Is Lacking
Based on a recent study conducted by Ipsos, only 1 in 4 respondents were “very familiar” with the Connected Car. As well, most of the desired features are decidedly practical in nature (see “Must Have Services” graph).

graphThe feature preferences are somewhat limited to what people know today. As manufacturers get more creative and truly align to consumers’ needs, we should see a growth in and increased desire for alternative Connected Car features, including acceptance for autonomous driving.

Drawing upon the recently published Ipsos Point of View The Six Behavioral Science Principles that Make or Break Innovation in Technology, Durables, Services and Other Non-CPG Markets, we see the successful adoption of Connected Car features following a predictable pattern:

  • Address a real consumer need: Whether it makes life simpler, saves time or removes something negative, a new innovation has to resonate with people and the way they live their lives.
  • Ensure differentiation: It increases the likelihood that consumers pay attention or notice and multiplies the impact of attractive innovation.
  • Create desire but address uncertainty upfront: An attractive innovation creates desire, but fear and uncertainty create barriers. These barriers have to be addressed upfront so consumers move from attention to engagement rather than being turned off. For example, security can be a real barrier going forward for the Connected Car and has to be dealt with.
  • Accelerate the bandwagon effect: Digital life multiplies avenues to increase the speed of diffusion. Digital word-of-mouth can be instantaneous.
  • Maximize value: Value is in the eye of the buyer, not in the cost plus pricing formula. This means it is critical to determine how much the innovation resonates with buyers and their willingness to pay for it.
  • Push doesn’t make up for the pull: When an innovation does not pull in enough consumers, one option is to increase push, such as media spend and availability, to make the numbers. The type of innovation would determine the level or type of marketing program required.

Clearly general awareness of and familiarity with the Connected Car must increase to ensure adoption, and particularly for more transformational changes such as autonomous driving to gain broad acceptance these six principles will need to be addressed.

Driving Autonomous Driving

While many of the closer-in Connected Car features are addressing real consumer needs and are potentially differentiated, the desire for a fully automated driving experience isn’t there yet.

There is a lot of uncertainty with autonomous driving. The key is to make consumers familiar with the concept and very comfortable that all of the elements work well. This can be done in stages, by growing the usage of precursor navigation features such as lane departure warning, automatic collision braking, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic parking, etc. Manufacturers will also need to address security elements to ensure people cannot remotely take control over your car – this can be a show stopper if not addressed appropriately.

Creating comfort and familiarity with these features and ensuring the vehicles are secure will enable consumers to trust the autonomous driving experience. This process will take time, but with so many of the connected features already included in mainstream sedans and SUVs, consumer acceptance should be rapid.

Consumers will start to expect these features or even demand them in their new vehicles.  This will create more of the pull versus the push from the manufacturers. Once the pull is enabled, this will create pressure on local and national governments to pass legislation to enable autonomous vehicles to be on the roads.

So the question is, how fast will this happen? Unlike the prediction in Back to the Future II, we aren’t flying in our automobiles in 2015, but perhaps by 2020 we will be able to buy vehicles that will drive themselves!