In the next 4 to 8 years, cars will out-tech smartphones, which will ultimately be limited by a small power supply and little headroom for sensors.
Car makers will overcome the current problem of long development cycles by using modular electronic components that can be easily swapped. Plus, in the car you can add arrays of sensors, and aim them more effectively than can a smartphone in your pocket. And the car gives you a relatively unlimited power supply. So says leading automotive analyst Thilo Koslowski of Gartner.
“The car will be cooler than smartphones and tablets going forward because you have so much more opportunity to create these immersive experiences… you have no power limitations, you can use all kinds of sensors. We’re really about to see a huge explosion on innovation in this space,” he said.
Silicon Valley is already training its sites on the car and it’s possible that technology companies will like the profit margins and increase their involvement in the sector, he said. Koslowski told us in an interview, “It’s fair game to assess that a lot of technology companies realize the connected vehicle represents an area they have a lot of expertise in. There’s Google, but there could be others. It could be Samsung. A lot of companies that really understand technology may find it attractive enough in profit margin to get involved.”
But hasn’t the car always lagged behind due to long production cycles? Koslowski believes automakers will figure out how to create tech modules that can be swapped out for upgrades. “You may be able to swap a module to give you more computing power, and to give you more sensors—audio, video sensors, heat sensors, multiple cameras.” An Audi A3 already allows you to upgrade a motherboard in the glove compartment to improve the car radio/navigation system.
So where does the aftermarket fit into the car of the future, especially with semi-self-driving cars in the works? Koslowski says aftermarket companies will have to get away from the center console and get deeply involved in sensors and other new technologies. And as cars become more “automated,” video will become a more important part of entertainment systems, he said.
“Ultimately that means you have more of a PC experience..that means you don’t really have to focus on the driving aspect.” But Koslowski doesn’t see driving reaching the point where you lay back on a sofa while the car drives itself due to legal issues.
The Gartner analyst foresees a time when the car can determine if the drivers around you are “safe” drivers or if they are driving poorly. In fact, all of us may have driving scores, and the future navigation system might route us on the safest route (where the drivers are safer) not just the fastest route.
“Ultimately the car will become self-aware. The phone can’t do that because you don’t get all the sensors. The car can not only read the state of the driver and passengers but the environment,” he said, noting, so it can tell if you are driving in the rain or in the left lane and then tell incoming callers you’ll call back at a later time.