Digitalization has upended the automotive industry. Long a stalwart of technological innovation, it’s also been among the slowest to embrace the radical digital transformation-driven changes seen by other industries over the past decade. That’s all changed, however, and is being catalyzed by exciting automotive HMI development across the industry.
Automotive digital services
We live in a service-based economy. Hardware makers of all stripes have learned that the secret to success is to think digital-first. The automotive industry is no exception, and we’ve already seen interesting examples across the market. Future automotive trends will play out in the same way.
One of the most interesting and controversial was BMW’s selling of heated seats for $18/month. Hopefully, you were paying attention because a lot was lost during the internet clamor. Ignore the outrage people expressed in paying for a service already present on many models (indeed, the subscription was only for vehicles where heated seats were not standard). The more interesting facet was BMW’s press into microservices—they are far from the only automaker that has done this.
The rise in flexibility as both a new revenue model and increased consumer affordability matters most here. Who wouldn’t love being able to only pay for heated seats during winter months?
And if you did the math, paying for even a yearly subscription is cheaper than upgrading to the next eligible model. What’s more exciting is the type of updates that new connectivity platforms will unlock that we haven’t even imagined yet. What about new metaverse worlds to explore?
We are just at the beginning of what is possible.
Watch closely how this trend changes over time. It’s possible to imagine OEMs chopping apart every feature into a subscription model, which could trigger greater regulatory oversight.
Cloud platforms and connected technology
Not long ago, you entered the vehicle, turned the key and went to your destination. That was it. Consumers didn’t give too much thought to their cars when they were outside the four doors. Think about connected services and how much they’ve already transformed user interactions.
From remote start to diagnostics, maintenance and beyond, where and how people engage with automotive brands has already shifted, creating a much different relationship between OEMs and their consumers. Over the next decade will see this will continue to evolve. For example, imagine receiving a personalized evening itinerary with suggested dining and entertainment options. How about when vehicles are aware you are on a road trip and offer guidance on local hotels and attractions? These are not only service but also monetization and partnership opportunities.
Connected and cloud technologies are equally impactful within the vehicle. One of the fastest-growing is in-car digital assistance or co-bots. Co-bots leverage AI to increase personalization, safety and convenience. By 2030, we can expect them to be standard on all vehicles supporting journeys in various ways.
While a co-bot can now tell you the weather and offer route guidance, in the future, it may sync to all aspects of your daily schedule, helping you navigate the urban environment and multi-modal transportation options. Within the vehicle, it will be key to unlocking educational, entertainment and productivity experiences.
Forgot horsepower. The HMI matters most.
How much horsepower does it have? What’s the fuel economy? These questions will no longer matter in an EV world where much of the driving experience will be commoditized. We already see this as range gradually becomes a downplayed differentiating factor among current brands.
What will be the center of the automotive experience instead? The HMI. This is the central touchpoint for automotive brands to deliver value to their customers. By 2030, expect it to be even more differentiated with a wide variety of examples.
This is where the value of HMI prototyping cannot be overestimated. Ideate, test, validate and refine concepts in front of your user groups. You might be surprised. We’ve already mentioned that screens may not actually be the new horsepower.
But there is incredible value in leveraging new automotive technology solutions. 3D HMI is a great example. You don’t need to create a game-like environment with a metaverse counterpart. But you can harness 3D now to improve navigation, reduce cognitive load and create a more seamless experience for your users. Always put them front and center!
Shared mobility and new business models
Individual car ownership is projected to decline significantly over the next decade. While it definitely won’t be disappearing, OEMs need to prepare themselves for new business models. There has long been talk in the industry about roving fleets of autonomous vehicles that will be ready to pick up passengers at a moment’s notice.
While this is much more likely for 2040, automakers should instead be more focused on the growth of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, as well as car sharing. Above all, consumers will demand flexibility. Interestingly, the major ride-sharing players understand this well ahead of OEMs. Lyft, for example, already creates travel options for its customers, including public and personal transportation.
Expect greater integration to continue to rise, especially as cities and governments worldwide push for more eco-friendly and cost-effective transportation options. At the higher end, watching car subscription services will also be critical. So far, these have yet to prove to be the automatic success brands like Hertz, Volvo, and Mercedes had hoped when first launching them. However, as more consumers embrace shared mobility, a fused subscription across all of these mobility business models will likely become increasingly dominant.
We all know that electric vehicles are here to stay. The question is how quickly they will eclipse ICE counterparts. We anticipate faster than you realize. Canada is an interesting example. One of the world’s leading producers of petroleum, it has mandated that 20% of all vehicle sales must be electric by 2026.
Moreover, by 2035, all sales must be electric, and Canada is far from the only country with a similar target. They are far from the only ones. We’re seeing this across the developed economies of the world.
Over the next few years, we will see a fast acceleration of electric vehicle adoption. While it’s likely, countries won’t beat the targets they’ve set. Nevertheless, we will soon reach a critical mass in EV sales with the corresponding infrastructure to support them.
By 2030, expect there to be many more EV charging stations with many petroleum stations converted or sharing two facilities. However, while many have anticipated charging infrastructure to be directly incorporated into roadways, that is a much more long-term goal. In the meantime, building refits plus mobile charging-as-a-service platforms will be much more commonplace.
How to prepare for this future
The trends we’ve discussed are just the tip of the iceberg on how the automotive industry will transform over the next decade. We are truly at the beginning of momentous change. To be ready, first and foremost, brands must embrace digital transformation.
It’s no longer enough to think solely about the traditional vehicle experience. Brands have to embrace servitization, agility, and having a strong digital presence. More than anything now is a good time for OEMs to experiment.
Much of this future is already here. Are you ready? Move into the fast lane of meaningful automotive innovation with experiences that resonate with users now and in the future. The best way to do that is by working with automotive technology advisors such as Star consultancy or another top firm that can help you ideate, design, deliver and evolve best-in-class automotive and mobility solutions that open new revenue streams, drive cost-efficiency and ensure your brand always stands above the rest.
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