This week I’m at Club Autosport in San Jose for the Qualcomm Automotive coming out party. Today they’ll be sharing what they are doing to make your next car far more enjoyable, far safer, and far more reliable than your current vehicle. Club Autosport is a rather interesting venue because it is an office park based on cars, and in it they have shops, wrapping companies, car brokers, a whole bunch of rich-guy man caves, and Club Sportiva—the exotic car sharing club I belong to. (Trust me, you don’t want to own an exotic car, you want to rent one at a discount).
Qualcomm’s premier technology is their radios, and clearly they are leading with the idea that all cars should be connected. I’ve been following Tesla for some time and connecting the car back to Tesla is one of the ways they successfully maintain the highest customer loyalty and satisfaction scores in their industry.
In the end they are describing a future where your car will be so nice inside you may want to live in it, though hopefully, you won’t have to.
Tesla And the Advantage of Connected
Tesla is the most connected car currently in the U.S. market. Tesla tracks every aspect of the car not unlike mission control for a NASA space shot. This allows them to do a number of things that other car makers can’t do. They can communicate with their customers in real time, they can remotely control the car (in case you lock yourself out or have a problem with one of the features), they can see alerts (so they can have help on the way to you before you even know you have a problem, or if you are unable to call for help), they can see what isn’t working right so they can work on fixes before a lot of folks start showing complaining in Tesla stores), and they know intimately what people use, like and don’t like—information they can sue to develop future cars, accessories and products.
In short they are so closely coupled to their customers and so tightly focused on assuring a great experience, that these customers, even with the issues surrounding electric cars, come back and tend to look at other car brands much like our ancestors likely looked at buggy companies after falling in love with the first cars: as last century’s technology and companies.
Going Beyond Tesla
Qualcomm is talking about taking this wireless capability beyond even where Tesla has taken it. One clear area is wireless charging. Qualcomm is very aggressive with regard to wireless charging and they propose this capability in garage floors, parking spots, and even underneath interstate highways. This last one is very important if electric cars, using current generation batteries, are to be used for long-distance trips. People just aren’t going to be willing to wait hours to recharge their cars while on a long drive; if the cars can charge or just use the power from the road, they not only become as good as gas cars on long trips, they become better because you don’t have to search for gas stations either.
One of the areas where the industry needs a lot of work is in infotainment. The infotainment system seems to be getting the most complaints in the Jaguar Forum (members have even come up with a fix for it which costs a whopping $5,600). Car makers are all over the map with this and often you lose music fidelity, have trouble connecting your phone for music streaming to the radio, and the pass through of phone apps like the very popular Waze GPS application is often less than pathetic.
Qualcomm is talking about making this far more seamless and eventually having the ability to execute all of your favorite apps in the car while better preserving the fidelity of the content. With far better in-car streaming, much of this content can come in real time which frees up phone memory and should help reduce a lot of the frustration and aggravation associated with this.
This applies for not only streamed inbound but outbound content, too. Everything from driving behavior which could be a prerequisite to lower insurance premiums to a video feed which could be used to identify drivers around you who are driving unsafely or illegally (excessive unsafe speed, amber alerts for kidnapping, or stolen cars). Fed back into an analytics system it could make a lot of crimes far more difficult to get away with and the roads, and our children, far safer.
This is also a precursor to self-driving cars which have to be connected, very aware of their surroundings, and far better connected to the cars around them.
Today I’m watching the future of cars get fleshed out by Qualcomm. If this vision comes to pass future cars will be far more strongly connected, far more reliable, safer, cheaper (even saving on insurance), a huge stepping stone to the coming wave of self-driving cars and a likely critical part of keeping human driving cars on the road once autonomous cars become more common. Of course what I’m most looking forward to near term is the fixes to the in-car entertainment systems, and my hope that some of this will make it through to Jaguar.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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