2013
12.05

If there is one thing Ron Montoya, consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com, can say for sure that he has seen during his five-year tenure covering the automotive sector it’s that the car companies have put more cell connections in cars than ever before. While on the surface this fact might seem a bit overstated, Montoya’s point hits at the heart of what is going to change the way we live every day.

Montoya spent some time on The Peggy Smedley Show this week talking about tech, cars, and what’s next with the carriers and OEMs (original-equipment manufacturers).

Montoya, like most of journalists covering the automotive space, believes all of these connections will ultimately create a huge difference, especially from the standpoint of consumers who don’t want to lose their cellphone experience when they step into a car. Consumers want to continue to have the same experience from the home, to the car, to the office.

What this means is that OEMs have a huge opportunity to establish an entirely new relationship with car buyers unlike ever before. For example, says Montoya the mobile connection can allow OEMs to send car updates.

Looking into the future this means OEMs can have realtime traceability, better remote management, and even improved brand awareness through a very unique customer experience. Both parties benefit from these connections.

So this begs the question: Who will own the relationship as more connectivity enters the vehicle? As Montoya sees it, consumers might be forced to establish a relationship with both the carrier and the OEM. In many cases he says once the trial period is over the car buyer will have to worry about making payments to the carrier. But in his mind, dealers have a great opportunity to benefit here in that they can make contact with consumers to make appointments or scheduling services, or to send updates. Therefore, consumers should expect a bit of a full relationship with all the parties including carriers, OEMs, dealers, just about everyone going forward.

Montoya says consumers are going to be the beneficiaries of all these new services. He says we are already seeing it through such things as Google Maps as consumers don’t have to update their navigation systems. He points to Wi-Fi hotspots for kids in the backseat; OTA (over the air) updates and even location services (to locate a car via apps on a smartphone that establishes a connection with a parked car).

So is Montoya really right? The fact is if all of the aforementioned occurs, consumers are going to be bombarded from a variety of players.

The OEMS are going to create a host of new business models, which include upfront revenue and pay-per-use models. The carriers are going to create new business models, which include bundled subscriptions, incremental services, add-on services, all equaling additional revenue. Customers are going to get some savings, enhanced productivity, and on-the-go experiences. Let’s not muddy the discussion by talking about how the platform companies will figure into the consumer-connected car.

More importantly, the bigger discussion should be on driver distraction. Is all of this connectivity in the car creating a heavier cognitive distraction? Montoya says it clearly is a definite concern. He says driving requires a lot of our senses, and all of these extra things create more of a workload on our brain and eventually drivers will miss things. He admits that hands-free is good start—but drivers may still be disengaged from what is going on in front of them. The driver might still be looking ahead, but their mind is focused elsewhere.

While it’s clearly a tough balance with tech and distraction, Montoya raises the question of whether tech should be applied at certain speeds, and therefore limit specific function of a vehicle. And the debate continues.