Connectivity in vehicles, the key to success
03/2020 - umlaut CEO Telecommunication Hakan Ekmen and connect’s editor-in-chief Marc-Oliver Bender in conversation.
Currently, the car industry experiences a transformation which can be described with confidence as disruptive. In addition to electric mobility, the increasingly complex networking and connectivity of vehicles play an important role. Together with the magazine connect, we have developed a testing procedure in order to benchmark vehicles in the areas of infotainment, navigation, connectivity and user experience. In this process, umlaut is focusing on user experience.
Which know-how does umlaut contribute in the area of vehicle development, especially regarding fully connected passenger cars?
Hakan Ekmen: umlaut has more than 20 years of expertise in the automotive industry, based on multiple consulting projects that cover process and quality management, the administration of large-scale projects reaching up to technological and strategic projects. When it comes to connected cars, umlaut is involved as a strong partner in the development of software and hardware, but also performs professional testing during and after the development process.
The goal is to ensure the highest quality standards in technology, digital services and user experience. In doing so, we always take a cross-industry approach, thinking our projects end-to-end. Therefore, our automotive consultants cooperate closely with our telecommunications experts.
Our customers work on a variety of issues in the area of connected cars – typical questions for example are: How can we offer cross-border connected services? Which telecommunication-specific peculiarities must be considered? How can we ensure an optimal user journey for our end customers with our services? Which parameters have to be adjusted, or which concept can guarantee optimal customer satisfaction? Which strategy in terms of technology should we follow over the next years? What is the significance of new technologies such as 5G for the development of the next generation of cars? How well and reliably do infotainment services work? How reliable are the driving instructions of the satnav system?
The spectrum of our capabilities spans from consulting over the development of digital services and business models including the selection of suitable technologies reaching all the way to user-centric development with prototyping as well as MVP, UX testing and design.
Orchestrating implementation is also a frequent topic. Here, we apply our project management methods combined with our deep technological understanding and know-how in areas such as AI, telecommunications and automotive. Due to our experience from other industries, we are often the driving force for introducing new approaches..
What exactly is considered in the tests?
We have developed 25 task-related tests, which we have divided into six categories:
App/smartphone, navigation, voice operation, productivity, entertainment and miscellaneous. The latter category comprises functions such as breakdown management, digital keys and private car sharing. In addition, we have defined two object-related tests, in order to test and assess the touchpoints InCar HMI as well as OEM apps according to their user experience and presentation.
From your point of view, which are the biggest challenges for car makers?
Car connectivity constantly gains in importance, as it provides advantages for drivers, manufacturers, dealers and traffic safety alike. Car drivers no longer want to go without internet access and the services associated with it. Manufacturers can offer a variety of services to their customers and collect telemetry data, which provides valuable insights into the functioning and utilization of a car. Dealers can access a car‘s data, solve problems remotely and communicate with their customers. Software updates can be distributed at any time over the network to the cars. And last but not least, car connectivity enables the connection to other cars and other road users, traffic signs and urban infrastructure, which will contribute to traffic safety, better control of traffic flows and the reduction of congestion.
Furthermore, connectivity is an important premise for autonomous driving.
But connecting cars is a big challenge for car manufacturers. A comprehensive coverage with the necessary high data rates is key for making full use of the emerging possibilities.
With the increasing interconnectivity, technology companies such as Google, Apple or Amazon are pushing into the market and competing with the traditional car makers by offering mobile online services. Due to their cloud-based services for smartphones and other applications, which have been established for years, they have a clear advantage over the automotive companies in this area.
Customers increasingly demand „Over the Air Updates“ and are no longer willing to accept product cycles of six years - which are still common in the automotive industry - for their infotainment systems, while their smartphones are getting replaced each year. With increasing connectivity, data security also gains heavily in importance – in order to protect cars from cyber-attacks.
And finally, the customers expect transparency and control concerning the utilization of their data, which could oppose the further use or even monetization of data representing vehicles use.
Which potential for optimization do you see, based on the vehicles that have been tested so far?
Each car manufacturer has individual strengths, but none of them really offers a holistic concept. Here, other industries in the digital space and mobility context can offer important stimulations. The catchword is “cross-industry“. We can take derivatives from smartphones, railways or aviation. The “overload“ of cars by too many technological features is definitely a problem.
So the focus should always stay on those functions which users actually need – with a consistent activation concept. But for this, we have no common standards in the automotive industry – which means that each manufacturer offers their own streaming app, their own nav system. It would be much more convenient for the users if they could choose apps which they are already familiar with.
What is the benefit for the readers from your teaming up with connect on a professional level?
We clearly focus on connectivity, not on the driving characteristics. Connectivity is examined completely detached from all other technical properties of a car. In doing so, we are completely objective and independent. We investigate all brands equally and we report a car‘s weaknesses the same as we would its strong points. Our tests clearly indicate a gap between the users‘ expectations and the current status quo. As our testers know the technological potential, they can assess in their reviews what a realistic improvement might look like.
Why do you estimate connect to be an optimal partner for these testing activities?
connect is one of the most accomplished experts when it comes to connectivity. This aspect is declaredly the main focus of the magazine – irrespective of the test object. We have been successfully working together for many years conducting mobile network tests, which are well known as the “umlaut connect mobile benchmarks“. Our partnership is based on transparency, fairness and impartiality. Our testing is performed due to clearly defined criteria. Evaluation and rating also follow a clearly defined framework. Together, we make sure that the user always remains in the centre.