The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) seems an odd venue for major vehicle makers to make an appearance. This is a show dedicated to all things geeky and electronic, from the latest home automation devices to the newest large-screen...
The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) seems an odd venue for major vehicle makers to make an appearance. This is a show dedicated to all things geeky and electronic, from the latest home automation devices to the newest large-screen HD televisions and Blu-ray players. How do car makers fit into all this?
Surprisingly well, in fact. Many made big announcements and showcased new onboard technologies. Toyota and Audi demonstrated self-driving cars. Others showcased the rapidly emerging ‘connected car.’ What exactly is a ‘connected car?’ It is one that will seamlessly link entertainment and news to a vehicle’s onboard display, instantly connect to the ‘Cloud’ while automating parking and collision avoidance, and giving more accurate and clear information about a vehicle’s performance and health to the driver.
Aftermarket providers also made major announcements. Delphi, for example, announced plans to release a ‘Cloud’-based Vehicle Diagnostics connectivity service with the ability for drivers to remotely control their cars and track and monitor systems from within a smartphone. The information generated will alert a vehicle owner to any problems and pre-book a service appointment, thereby strengthening the ties between the service provider and the vehicle owner.
Still, there are challenges. These connected vehicles and the efforts of the major auto makers to develop ever-more complex onboard systems — Ford and GM announced open developer platforms for the creation of specialized apps that will ‘personalize’ the driving experience — will prove a unique challenge for independents.
Last year, I wrote about how new fuel efficiency standards will change the way technicians diagnose and maintain engine technologies in the future, with the traditional wrench and screwdriver taking a backseat to computer diagnostics and software and system updates. These onboard systems will do the same. Independents will have to press aftermarket suppliers hard to find solutions to keep these systems open to non-dealership operations. The temptation will be to make these onboard systems a closed eco-system, locking the vehicle owner to the car maker and its service operations for the life of the vehicle. Think of it as the Apple approach to vehicle development and electronics.
Companies like Delphi are to be commended for taking an early lead on opening up these systems to independent service providers. Others will likely follow soon … and the aftermarket will be better for it.