Meeting Customer Expectations at the Intersection of Wireless and Automotive – Mary Chan

As the connected car becomes a reality, Mary Chan reflects on her deep experience in the wireless industry to look at the most important considerations for automakers
CES 2014 Coverage

More than 60 percent of U.S. wireless subscribers own a smartphone according to the latest Nielson reports – that’s up 10 percent since smartphones took over the majority in early 2012. Those numbers continue to steadily climb as 80 percent of all new mobile phone buyers between June and August 2013 purchased a smartphone.

The significant penetration of these feature-rich, always-on devices has had a profound impact on our expectations for other connected devices – and the vehicle is no exception. We live in a multichannel, highly digital world and automakers seeking to add more connected services to their vehicles will have to consider the high standards set by today’s modern technology and related consumer expectations around user-experience.  If it is not simple, easy to use and relevant, customers won’t embrace these services.

In order for the next generation of connected vehicles to be successful, we have to continue to put the customer experience first and develop flexible hardware and software platforms in our vehicles that allow for more services and features to be added over time. To do this, we’ve taken several cues from the wireless industry, including what I believe are the four most important measures: content, speed, personalization and seamless integration.

Content – We have learned from the wireless industry that it is important to have an open ecosystem that allows for future innovations. Propriety platforms that limit partner and individual developers are restricting. For the automotive sector to be successful, we need to ensure an open ecosystem that encourages the expansion of connected services with rich, valuable and relevant content for both the driver and passengers.

Speed – As the wireless industry shifts from 3G to 4G data speeds, customers have become accustomed to fast access to content and services across all their devices. They will expect to receive data quickly and through a reliable connection in the vehicle as well.  General Motors has made a global commitment to equip its vehicles with an embedded OnStar 4G LTE connection starting in summer 2014.  This embedded connection will provide a Wi-Fi hotspot with superior signal quality and bandwidth, faster speeds with lower latency for vehicle applications, and the capability to handle voice and high-speed data.

Personalization – We have been able to personalize our smartphones with the specific applications and settings that are relevant to our lives, so that over time, our phones become customized to our individual needs and preferred content.  We believe your car’s infotainment system should operate on the same principal of more customization options. We are actively developing native applications and working with third-party partners to create new and relevant vehicle-specific applications to help drivers customize their in-vehicle settings and preferences to fit their needs and lifestyle. Because the average vehicle ownership timeframe is much longer than the average smartphone ownership, the ability to customize and update your vehicle’s infotainment features becomes more important and appealing to customers.

Seamless Integration – In this multichannel, high-tech culture, our devices work best when they sync well with other devices.  We want our smartphones, computers, tablets, cameras, fitness monitors and more to all work seamlessly with one another.  We want to be able to access our personal clouds wherever we are and expect that our preferences, data and content should sync regardless of the device. In order for the car to be a true part of this digital life, it should work seamlessly with other brought-in devices, services and platforms if the customer wants this level of personalization. We’re still a long way from this vision, but is an exciting notion of what’s possible as vehicles become more connected and capable of integrating across various personal devices.

The intersection of the wireless and automotive industries, and the resulting expansion of connected services, are exciting and bring great potential to enhance the overall vehicle ownership experience. To truly deliver on the connected car promise and the potential opportunities it presents, we must look not only at learnings from within the auto industry, but also to the lessons learned from innovators within the wireless industry and ensure that we keep the customer experience at the forefront of all we do.

mary chanOn May 1, 2012 Mary Chan joined General Motors in a newly created role as President of Global Connected Consumer. In this capacity she reports to GM Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky and has responsibility over the recently formed global Infotainment Business Unit as well as OnStar’s global business operations.

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