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Sunday, March 8, 2015

C∧RGO Wants To Know The Future of The Connected Car

Today, I received an interview request. Cargo wants to discuss:
  • What is your perspective on IoT as it relates to the Connected Car?
  • What do you think is next for the industry?
  • Where do you see Cargo, if at all, in that industry?

A connected car has a lot of potential. It could play my personalized internet radio station such Pandora or Slacker. It could run my favorite navigation app such as Waze, which lets you know about accidents and police along my route. However, at this point, I'd be happy with a clock in my car that I didn't have to set twice a year.

I have been thinking about connected cars a lot since I took delivery of my Leaf in 2011. It has a 2G mobile plan that came with the car. It's used for CarWings and to update the charging station map. Although these features are nice, I think Nissan has greatly underutilized the potential. More recently we have seen Tesla pushing updates to their cars to increase horsepower and add features such as the creep option when stopped.

Calendar Integration, Appointment Booking, & Food To-Go

These things are just the beginning for the connected car. Tesla also has a feature that allows the car to see your calendar. This means, if you allow it, the car will know where you need to be and when you need to be there. It also has access to the car's charge level, maps, and traffic information. Put all of these together and now we are getting into something interesting.

Here is a feature that would be handy. If the car needs service, it would just look my calendar and the available appointment slots and then find a time that works best and then just ask me to confirm the appointment. As more places start to support online booking, more appointments could be auto-scheduled. I'd like to be able to hop in the car and say, "Car, I need a haircut," then the car would scan for the nearest locations of my prefered stylist chain, make an appointment and plot a route. Similarly, I'd like to be able to say "Order my usual from Mod," or Chipotle or any of the places that I often get take-out and have the car place the order at the nearest location or at one that is along my planned route.

Meaningful Information When It's Needed

I have been using Google Now for several months. There was one day that it popped up a notice and said that I had to leave in 5 minutes to make it to an appointment on time. I had not planned on leaving for another 20 minutes. My planned departure time would have normally gotten me there on time. G-Now, however, was aware that today there was a traffic jam on my route that it would add 15 minutes to my drive time. This is helpful, real-time, personalized information. Finally, compute devices are getting smart enough to do more than just throw information at us for us to filter and decipher.

If a connected electric car had all the same information, plus knew charging stops, (if needed) recharge times, and could even reserve charging access, this would be a helpful feature.

One of the features that is often touted with connected cars is the realtime car-to-car communication that allows vehicles to travel in tight packs and share their intentions with the cars around them before they maneuver. To me, this seems like a feature of autonomous cars more than just connected cars. This has been covered in detail in many other places, so I'll leave this idea alone for now.

Augmented Reality Heads Up Display

Assuming people are still behind the wheel in the near future, I'd like to see an augmented reality heads up display (HUD) on the windshield. The projection would need to be done in such as way that it appeared at the proper focal distance out on the road ahead rather than directly on the windshield.

There are a lot of aftermarket HUD devices out there today, but I have not seen one that I like. Many of them spew social media feeds in front of the driver. This is a distraction and barely better than someone looking at their phone while driving. Other HUDs are like a fighter jet cockpit and have a deluge of dials and meters for so many things that I generally don't care about while driving. Just because you can display something does not mean that you should.

What I'd like to see is a HUD that highlights potential dangers, enhances lanes indications, warns for lane departure, indicates the current speed limit and my speed, gives navigation hints, and not much more.

And for the times I drive to a city that I am not familiar with, an audio tour guide would be a nice feature.

Final Question

The last thing they asked was "Where do you see Cargo, if at all, in that industry?"
I have to admit that I don't know much about Cargo. I have no idea if any of my above ramblings would work with their product lines or future plans. When the Nissan Leaf came out, I was happy to see that they implemented several of the features that I recommended. However, the things that I recommended to Nissan were simpler UI settings and information displays. To fully realize the connected car will require infrastructure development, co-travelers, enablement efforts, and much more.