PART 1: PERFORMANCE AND CUSTOMIZATION: THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY MOVES CLOSER TO FOLDING IN TO DRIVER’S DIGITAL LIFESTYLE
A year ago June, I sat on a panel alongside peers at TU-Automotive Detroit discussing “Optimum Strategies for Improved User Experience,” and afterwards I wrote about my key takeaways. Among the many discussions from the event and panel that stuck with me was: As we expand an automobile’s UX beyond the vehicle to connect the driver to the outside world, have we actually gotten any closer to connecting to the driver’s own digital world?
With all that has happened since TU-Automotive Detroit in 2019—automotive industry notwithstanding—recent studies have suggested a resurgence in personal car ownership. With U.S. commuters relying less on public transportation and ride-sharing services out of pandemic safety and health concerns related to the pandemic, 93% of consumers surveyed by Cars.com report using their personal vehicles more. And 20% of respondents who don’t own a car are considering purchasing one.
Will this uptick in car use and purchase intent influence the automotive industry’s timeline to fully invest in becoming integral to the consumer’s digital lifestyle?
In this three-part series, I break down how mass customization trends are driving major pivots from hardware- to software-defined automotive architecture models below, what this means for OEMs (Part 2), and what we are working on at Chamberlain Group’s Automotive Division to help our partners seamlessly transition to software-centric digital integration (Part 3).
Mass Customization and Seamless Connectivity
Whether it’s a sneaker, smartphone, or the theme of a vehicle interior, people want a singular consumer experience that not only feels tailored to them but is tailor-made for them. And they want these distinctive products, experiences, and upgrades created and delivered quickly, effectively, and conveniently.
Consumers expect their homes, wallets, phones, automobiles, streaming music platforms, car sharing apps, online grocery service, and favorite food delivery providers to not only know their preferences, but anticipate their next move—all while remaining personalized with every jump to a new, upgraded device, dashboard, vehicle, new location, and more.
In my experience, when we develop innovations for our company and partners at Chamberlain Group, we examine what the consumer ultimately expects when “connecting,” which in these days means personalized, instantaneous, intuitive, and, in best case scenarios, seamless. Think about how truly integrated mass customization experiences work when done right. You don’t even realize they’re happening, but you expect them nonetheless. Consider these two examples:
- When upgrading your mobile device, you purchase your phone, turn it on, and within seconds, you see it has automatically adopted the settings and screensaver you established on your old device. It’s even ready to play that cheesy ringtone you picked signifying your old college roommate is calling. Your experience is uninterrupted by the change, providing a new and improved version, but still feeling familiar and smart. Truly connected tech does just that.
- When opening your favorite food delivery app, you have a dashboard that remembers you, your last order, your last location, where you are now ordering from, and that you have historically ordered Chinese food on Tuesdays, no matter where you log in or what device you use.
Customization is not new to the auto industry, but it has historically focused on hardwired, physical, “built to order” offerings of the past, such as exterior and interior color and texture, leather or cloth, navigation, heated seats, and after-market accessories.
So how do we, as an industry, make the leap to truly seamless connectivity that moves as the driver moves? For example, shifting from an older vehicle to a new model and yet the settings and preferences carry over when the new owner logs into their account. When transitioning from vehicle to garage how can the two be intuitively linked to work in unison and support the driver’s digital behaviors even when the driver settles into their office, gets back into their vehicle, and finally arrives home again. Even more, does the vehicle stay relevant and responsive to the user’s digital ecosystem even while it’s parked in the garage? To bring the driver what they demand as they shift through their daily lives, and to fast-track the automotive industry’s progress in providing scalable personalization, the vehicle’s interior needs to go digital—and quickly. We are at the precipice of transitioning to a software centric interior, and while it’s a massive challenge, it also makes this the most exciting time to be in this industry.