I was recently walking through the office hallway when I stopped to talk with a colleague. She told me a story about a “week of unplugging” that her kids had recently participated in at their middle school. The premise of this “unplugging” is pretty much as it sounds: students who chose to participate handed in their devices (smartphones, iPods, etc.) for the week in an effort by the administration to teach the dependence we all place on our devices. At the end of the week, students were asked how they felt about the experience. Students explained how having the ability to listen to their music was by far what they missed most, followed by social media access that allowed them to share content and stories with friends, and then texting.
Are you surprised? Even as I’m sitting here writing this blog post, I’m listening to music at my desk. When leaving the office to head home, the first thing I usually do is to check my text messages and social media notifications from friends. Connectedness is inherent in our daily lives; it’s inevitable. We expect to have the ability to listen to our music, browse social feeds, discover news, and text and call friends and family anytime and anywhere – at home, at work, running errands, and even in the car. In the age of smartphones and the ‘Internet of Everything,’ we expect a seamless experience as we move from place to place; easily able to pick up what we were doing in one location once we enter the car.
As an American, it’s estimated that I will spend more than 4.3 years of my life driving, and in that time, I’ll cover enough distance to take me to the moon and back three times. That’s a lot of time spent staring at headlights and sitting in traffic. This time, coupled with the increasing expectancy for connectivity in the car, means high demand for automakers to deliver all-encompassing connected car infotainment systems.
Studies have shown that people may spend four hours each day, or 13 years of their lives listening to music. Since the 1930s, drivers have been able to enjoy music while in the car. After the failed record player in the car, the disappearance of the 8-track, and a few more decades of innovation, we now see systems that can access individuals’ personal music libraries across devices, offer up thousands of internet radio channels, and suggest new music based on interests.
Intuitive music and radio integration is just one of many features frequently used in the connected car. Others include navigation systems, voice control capabilities, and even certain social media functionality such as posting to Twitter and Facebook. In fact, a recent study stated that nearly 4 in 10 drivers use social media while driving. In the time it takes you to read this blog post, over 1 million new tweets will have been sent. Clearly, drivers need a way to satisfy their craving to be connected without compromising their safety – connectedness needs to be fine-tuned for the in-car experience.
The automotive industry is keeping a pulse on what drivers are already doing while in the car, including how they discover music and use social media. It’s in everyone’s best interest to then provide technology that mitigates safety concerns associated with these features, enabling drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road and focus on the task of driving. Many automakers are already doing this with a number of systems that support voice-enabled access to content and information that is designed specifically for consumption behind the wheel, and in line with current safety standards. For example, Nuance voice and content technology has shipped in over 100 million cars to date – technology that includes features such as music and social media controls.
In the future, new technologies could make way for even smarter connected car infotainment systems. Automakers will be able to deliver these previously mentioned features as standard, while also delivering contextually-aware systems that take into account factors such as a driver’s speed and the traffic conditions they are driving in to determine when it is and isn’t safe for specific functions (for example, not notifying you of a new text message until conducive driving conditions). It sure doesn’t seem that consumer demands are slowing down anytime soon; good thing automakers and technology providers aren’t either.