These days, 55% of consumers say they won’t buy a car if it doesn’t have the technology they want. Car purchasing is no longer about the vehicle’s performance. Instead, customers are more interested in futuristic features which make the car more than a run-of-the-mill vehicle. Think safety features such as collision-avoidance systems, blind-spot warnings and automatic braking and conveniences like Bluetooth technology for calling and streaming music through the car’s speakers.

Technological innovation for the automotive industry is a product of collaborations between tech companies and car manufacturers. This is not always an easy alliance, since auto manufacturers focus on safety and quality, which means that they plan extensively and work slowly and deliberately. The tech industry is much more fast-paced since products can become obsolete in a matter of a few months and customers expect a steady stream of updates and improvements.

It takes about three years to design and build a car, so the first challenge is to put a car on the market which features the latest technology (and not tech from three years ago). Cars remain on the road for about 11 years, so the auto industry also needs to find ways to make updates to the technology in older cars or customers will not keep their cars for that long nor buy second-hand cars with outdated technology.

Another area where the auto industry must innovate is that of keeping data private. In the near future, customers will expect their cars to tell them where the nearest restaurant or gas station is located, whether the alarm at home was set and where they can buy the items they forgot at home. In order for a car to be able to do this it will have to collect a lot of data about the customer’s behavior. Although we have all gotten used to the idea that a certain amount of privacy must be sacrificed for convenience (Google and Facebook work on this principle), most customers are not ready to relinquish total control of their privacy. Auto manufacturers must offer car owners the ability to control what data is collected and used by the car’s technology while still providing maximum convenience for twenty-first century driving.

Safety is still the number one factor in the quality of a car. Customers are looking for bells and whistles but if the technology stops the car from working or compromises safety, drivers will look elsewhere for their next car. Auto manufacturers must focus on reliable technology, which provides as much safety as possible. Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology are expected to drastically reduce car accidents, but they open the door to data security problems. If hackers can tamper with the breaks or with the safety system, a car can become a destructive weapon.

Customers may be dreaming of self-driving cars (or even flying cars), but for now the challenge that the auto industry faces is in using technology to provide customers with safe, reliable, convenient and fun cars. Partnerships with technology companies can produce cars which keep up with the technology that’s become commonplace in our phones, computers and other devices.

Patrick Sirois
[email protected]

At Triode, we specialize in developing new products and services for complex industries like medical devices and transportation. We work with you closely to help define product strategy, with an emphasis on reducing the risks associated with innovating in these sophisticated and often regulated consumer-oriented environments.