After a Year of Steering Vehicles Into the 'Cloud' Agero's Innovation Chief Foresees No U-turn
Cloud-based Services and Content Becoming Standard on Connected Vehicles
A year after developing Hyundai's Blue Link® - one of the broadest cloud-based infotainment and service programs in the consumer vehicle market -- long-time connected vehicle service provider Agero envisions the sustained consumer frenzy over smartphone applications will continue to steer vehicle manufacturers toward cloud computing as an integrated component of next-generation dashboards. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the vehicle's center stack control display is destined to resemble an iPad screen.
A more complex transformation is emerging, according to Frank Hirschenberger, Agero's director of Innovation. "We're certainly hearing about cloud-based smartphone apps inside the car opening up opportunities as both a revenue generator and brand differentiator, but we have already turned to the cloud to achieve a more fundamental objective - integrating off-board technologies into a flexible platform that hosts continually improving system responses," Hirschenberger explained.
Complementing Agero's third-generation telematics platform delivering emergency and navigation services, cloud-based servers provide the backbone for both Blue Link and the more recently introduced Infiniti Connection(TM) connected vehicle services program. Nearly half of Blue Link's 30-plus services are accessed via voice commands through the off-board speech system, rather than relying on call center agents or in-vehicle speech technology that often becomes outdated early in a vehicle's lifespan. Agero's cloud also enables the most challenging assignments for voice-based artificial intelligence requests --- destination routing.
Hirschenberger said that apps will evolve much differently in the car than on the phone, and that most importantly, in-vehicle apps will have to be relevant to the driving experience. "I think what you will see are apps that are blended into a vehicle-centric service offering, tailored to minimize the potential risk of driver distraction," he said.
Hirschenberger said that he doesn't necessarily foresee a dashboard cluttered with icons indicating Facebook updates or Twitter feeds. The automotive OEM industry and federal regulators at the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration are currently considering and deliberating guidelines over what constitutes appropriate visual displays within the vehicle. Hirschenberger speculated that drivers and manufacturers will be more interested in rich content relevant to the driving experience, ranging from real-time, location-based parking availability to alerts about adverse upcoming roadway conditions along the driver's intended destination.
Whatever web-based applications that drivers will inevitably desire to access in the vehicle, the cloud-based platform has already become the critically important substitute for "future-proofing" in-vehicle services, by minimizing reliance on embedded hardware and perhaps even smartphones tethered to the in-vehicle system, for the lifetime of the vehicle. Based on what Agero has already experienced, the cloud ensures vehicle electronics are always compatible with a variety of hardware and devices, as well as human machine interfaces and the latest developments in safety research, particularly in the largely unexplored realm of cognitive distraction.
Most of all, the cloud enables vehicle manufacturers to differentiate their services. "The critical point is the need to deliver differentiated, updated content long after the initial purchase of the vehicle and regardless of what advances are introduced in the mobile device spaces," Hirschenberger said. "We're relying on the cloud to integrate what we don't even know is coming."
Agero is a leading provider of private-labeled, connected vehicle services for the automotive, insurance and aftermarket industries and is a market leader in roadside assistance and claims management. Based in Medford, Mass., the company has operations throughout North America and offices in Europe. For more information, visit www.agero.com.