In the 1970s, almost all of your car’s value could be defined by the materials of the car itself; the power of its motor, the quality of its stereo system, the luxurious material of its seats. By the year 2025, roughly half of a car’s value will be defined by its intangible features: its software and user experience.
To keep up with the constantly changing nature of technology, auto companies employ a method for updating software without requiring car owners to come into dealerships every time: over-the-air (OTA) upgrades. Some estimates suggest that 98% of automobiles will feature some form of technology serviced by OTA upgrades by 2025.
OTA upgrades benefit the manufacturer over the course of a car’s life; consider the cost of a software-related recall that could be fixed by a simple patch. In the past two years alone, the recall rate of cars rose to nearly 50%, and analysis by ABI Research suggests one-third of those recalls could have been addressed by OTA upgrades — saving manufacturers an estimated $6 billion.
Vehicle upgrades via OTA services can also breathe life into second- and third-generation car owners, who may opt for the same services the original owner declined, particularly if advances have been made in the intervening years to those applications and services.
The capabilities of software and IoT to enhance the driving experience poses new and exhilarating challenges for developers. What should they focus on to build tech for our future cars? How can developers use their skills to improve the OTA experience for both automakers and car owners?
It all starts with a change in mindset. Cars are no longer just vehicles; they’re digital devices. Here’s what developers need to think about in order to think about cars as IoT devices and successfully build software for the future of driving.
Designing for a holistic software ecosystem
The first step in approaching vehicles as IoT devices is realizing that from now on, tech developed for cars must be compatible with all software ecosystems. The connected nature of IoT leads developers to be hyper-aware of the compatibility between their apps and those created by others. When an IoT developer produces an app, you can guess it’s been thoroughly tested on all devices — from mobile to desktop — and across all operating systems — from iOS and Android to Windows. Developers in the IoT space have thought about this from the very beginning.
This hasn’t historically been a consideration in development for the auto industry. A navigation system built into your sedan, which certainly was an impressive piece of software, hasn’t had to interact with other navigation systems, or with other devices within the car. The hardware and software you build for the cars of tomorrow will not exist in a silo; it will exist amid a vast network of other devices.
Developers who want to excel in the auto industry will need to align their technology with all software ecosystems. Consider the end user for your product. Will they get in their car with an iPhone? A Samsung Galaxy? Or perhaps, a Google Pixel? The answer (if you achieve a successful product) is all of the above. Your technology should be prepared to interact with and sync with any software environment that your consumers may use.
For most car manufacturers, moving forward with the IoT mindset isn’t a choice — it’s a necessity. Tesla is paving the road, and the rest of today’s auto manufacturers will be forced to follow along this evolutionary path. Most vehicle manufacturers haven’t had to face the challenge of considering whether their models are compatible with Google, Amazon, or Apple products; it’s on developers to evolve with the industry and provide car manufacturers with technology that fits a holistic software ecosystem.