Everyone is trying to understand how the connected car is transforming the motor industry, the customer experience and society in general. However, we wonder whether there’s a more interesting question to ask: how are people transforming the connected car? By Ross Timms, head of strategy, Rufus Leonard.

It is clear that the introduction of big, exciting new technologies does not just change us, but that we (the user) also change that technology. Whatever the ideals of the original architects, or their core intent, or even their understanding of an unmet need, once we get our hands on something, everything can – and often does – change.

We apply our own expectations and use the technology in unpredicted and unpredictable ways. We find new possibilities and we shape it into something new. The internet and touch-screens exemplify that dynamic. They are both platform technologies, and so is the connected car.

We are promised an era of seamless and universal mobility, on-demand access ‘to me’ service and shared ownership of shared infrastructure. And while all those things may well still come to pass, the really exciting question is how it happens.

What will the car collector or the thrill-seeking boy racer do with the technology? What will the DIY tinkerer, who’s grown up with Raspberry Pi and Arduino do with it? What might an institution like the NHS do with it, that an organisation like TfL could learn from? And of course, vice versa?

There’s something else going on too. Exciting new things become run of the mill very quickly. We are hardwired to normalise the extraordinary and look for our next high. The flush of excitement that follows the mainstream introduction of truly connected (and autonomous) cars, creates a honeymoon period where people get use to the technology, using it as the designers originally intended – for a while at least. That soon gives way to a feeling of normality and the confidence to play with it. When that happens, extraordinary and exciting things follow.

What if…

What if all route planning and driving, and telemetry data were publicly owned and accessed? And what would be possible when combined with the kind of data sets that TfL and National Rail have? Maybe we would see the emergence of public transport solutions designed by and for local neighbourhoods.

What if our cars became a neutral object – in the way that our smartphones are now all the same ‘black mirror’ – and software provided the excitement and brand distinction? Or if users of Kickstarter decided that mobility should become the focus for the platform? What would BMW or Toyota do in that world? And would it encourage the bedroom entrepreneurs to launch their own ‘car’ brands?

What would happen if Nike identified that our mobility and performance were intertwined? Or if Spotify’s subscription model was transferable to transport? New entrants with fresh offers,driven by consumer demands,tend to upend well established sectors. So the shift to a connected car platform leaves the door open for fresh approaches to a perennial human need.

We say, embrace the uncertainty

If you are a brand facing this challenge, or if you are considering the opportunities of entering the sector, try approaching the challenge with an ‘open source’ mindset. See what happens when you ask commuters, car enthusiasts and coders to build your connected car for you. And rather than steel, aluminium, leather and plastic, think of data as the main material for design and manufacture. Changing your entry point and your approach will get you closer to understanding what could well happen when we, the consumers, get our hands on this technology.

All this has already begun

<img src="http://iotnowtransport.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/031.-RL-Portraits_-Ross_Compliance.jpg" alt="" width="168" height="112">

Ross Timms

Over the last two years, through our work with both the AA and the RAC, we’ve seen that motoring service providers are taking steps to understand their role in this shifting sector. It’s become clear that these brands have to, at minimum, plan for a future where cars might communicate directly with the mechanic, and even drive themselves to be repaired.

More fundamentally, they and others – including insurers and even manufacturers – are having to adapt to a world in which data is now the most valuable resource a company can hold. (With Tesla’s use of data often leading the pack). Once you understand what stories the data tells you, you are able to understand how people really want to use your products and services. This will give you an insight into real world, unfiltered behaviours, which will tell you how people are responding to and adapting technologies as they become familiar with them.  As you innovate, make sure your service is designed in a way that that gives users permission to ‘play’ and then optimise it by responding to emergent behaviours.

So instead of trying to understand how the connected car is transforming the motor industry, the customer experience and society in general. Ask yourself, how could people transform the connected car? Let your innovation provide the parameters for consumers to collaborate with you to design an even more extraordinary brand experience.