What is a connected car?

52° 30' 57.852" N, 13° 22' 37.128" E
27th Aug 2013

Technology is rapidly improving the driving experience: Internet connectivity is bringing the outside world into cars and the development of car sensors is creating new possibilities for the automobile industry.

At the same time technology is creating huge expectations for cars. People expect cars to be connected and to feature the level of innovation they see in their personal devices: by 2016 it’s predicted one-third of cars sold in Western Europe and Russia will be connected.

At HERE, we believe that a connected car isn’t just about putting a smartphone in vehicles. We believe that connectivity is creating vast new possibilities for the automobile industry.

We believe that a connected car consists of three key elements.

1. The right information at the right time

First of all, it’s important to understand that connectivity can’t always be available and the system can’t afford to go down when there is no connection: only a hybrid map, combining online and offline information, can provide the same level of services in any situation. Only HERE has this kind of hybrid engine.

An Internet connection can provide fresh maps and the latest points of interest, but there is much more information that can be sent directly to the vehicle. As a result, people are able to make more conscious decisions that solve very common issues. Let’s have a look at two examples.

It might come as a surprise, but 70 per-cent of the people in urban traffic are simply looking for parking. What people want is to be able to know where they can park, reserve the slot and make a transaction. While there are some parking solutions in few cities, parking is a problem that really needs to be solved on a global or country level to be interesting to car manufacturers.

People spend a lot of time in traffic and they spend a lot of time thinking about how to predict and beat traffic. The average American commuter spends over 250 hours a year behind the wheel 23 per-cent of the non-recurrent delay on highways in US is due to weather, this equates to 544 million vehicle-hours of delay per year.

According to our own studies however, people and businesses spend an average of 18 per-cent less time driving if they use real-time traffic services, saving fuel costs and the environment.

In both these two examples, delivering relevant information to the vehicle, requires the service provider to process and analyze large amounts of data.


2. Communicating data

One of the most exciting aspects of the connected car is probably the opportunity to extract data from the vehicle in real time.

Safety is an obvious application. How many of you have been driving, see a downpour, and slam on the brakes and pray for the best? Imagine if we could tell people coming in your direction that they will be affected by the same downpour and that they need to change their behavior. Imagine automotive cloud services that could warn you in advance of a possible dangerous situation.


In the picture above you can see a road (in Eindhoven, The Netherlands) with a very sharp turn. Using the normal map (reference data) we know how urban planners made the road to be driven. What we don’t know is how people are actually driving it right now (activity data). Connected cars let us capture specific behaviour and build advanced driver assistance systems that help them master roads in different environments.

When we combine reference and activity data, we can power an autonomous vehicle with a much more fluid driving experience: it can drive and behave like a human.

But there are challenges in a connected cars world: being able to process the billions of data points from the growing number of sensor and probe data. We believe we are one of a handful of companies that have the computing power to process this kind of information real time for the entire industry.


3. Personalization

But extracting data is not everything, because the person who drives the car really determines how that car behaves. Two people that share the same vehicle will probably drive it in different ways. When building predictive models, learning about vehicles is important, but so is the profile of the particular driver.

Although car-sharing solutions are clearly successful, people still want personal driving experiences. Nowadays it’s not enough to adjust the driver’s seat to feel comfortable in a car: people want to bring their favorite contacts, places, routes and tunes from the cloud into the vehicle. If vehicles are not replicating, in some way, how people consume information (social networks, digital maps, music, etc.), they will not be giving them what they want.

We’re only just starting to explore what’s possible with connected cars, but a whole new level of innovation is just around the corner.