The 2015 Connected Car Expo is the third in the series that has successfully redefined the LA Auto show from a tepid ‘green’ show, to one of technology and its automotive applications.
This year’s event was more technical than previous offerings, and some of the on-stage discussions drifted into the arcane, with participants’ exchanges becoming a exposition of obscure acronyms. Still, there was plenty to be gleaned from the discussions, and the wise designer of today and tomorrow should have at least a cursory knowledge of such topics as automotive cybersecurity, automotive software and its update models, and consumers’ response to new technologies.
We have collected a ten takeaways form this years’ event, along with 3 lessons for the designer of tomorrow:
1) There still is no accepted definition of a “connected car” in the industry and that has led to confusion among consumers.
2) The connected car is one of six developments that are reshaping life in the 21st Century. The other five are: ‘the next billion’ – telephony for the developing world; the rebirth and re-purposing of television; smart homes; wearable tech; and virtual reality.
3) The car is emerging as its own technology device with unique opportunities and challenges. Interfaces are ultimately different than with handheld devices, its cybersecurity issues are unique, and the space it occupies in the world is on an architectural and infrastructural scale. It will become the largest of all our personal tech devices.
4) Every business is a software business now. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to know how to code, but knowing software’s opportunities and limitations is vital.
5) Silicon Valley is emerging as a design centre and locale of a unique car culture. It’s not just about technology any more – its design influence will grow in the coming years.
6) Urbanisation of the world continues at a record pace. This is particularly dense in Asian countries, whereas America remains more suburban.
7) The future of the car is more miles but less ownership as services like Uber and Zipcar keep cars in motion for more of their lifetime. This could also result in a more rapid turnover of the car fleet as a whole.
8) With cars in more continuous use, parking as we now know it may die. The idea that a car is parked 80 percent of its lifetime and used for limited times may well be seen as a quaint anachronism of the 20th Century.
9) Consumers will begin to value experiences over car ownership.
10) The future of luxury is time and space. Reclaiming time lost to commuting – and doing so in a private, pleasant space – is the future of the luxury car.
Three Design Lessons
1) Sensing systems – lidar, radar, radar cameras, etc. all may have their own expression on the exterior of a car, like mirrors and lights. Integrating these into the overall design is both a challenge and an opportunity.
2) If the overall car fleet has a more rapid turnover, new designs and materials that do not have to last decades, which may open enormous new opportunities for innovative design, especially of interior spaces.
3) Designers must not only design the physical object, but keep in mind the experience of the traveling space. The new definition of luxury demands a new design ethos.
The new conception of a car, a high tech device that is in near continuous motion, providing a pleasant space to socialise and experience the city, while reclaiming lost time, is perhaps the ultimate takeaway from the Connected Car Expo. It also is a challenge to the designer, engineer, and the consumer of tomorrow. We will all have to re-calibrate our understanding of the car and the new realities. But the opportunities are enormous and multifaceted.