India’s connected car market – a wide open goal

Martin Kahl presents his top 5 talking points from Connected Car Pune

‘Connected car’ – two simple words that mask the vast number of complex technologies, applications and business models involved. At Connected Car Pune, a one-day Automotive Megatrends conference, stakeholders debated the way forward for connectivity in India, and India’s role in connecting the greenstreetsoftware.info.

Massive potential

In terms of connectivity, India presents a massive opportunity. Just 1.4% of cars in India are connected, said Sheetal Patil, Global Product Manager for Infotainment at Visteon, growing to just 4% over the next five years. Maruti Suzuki VP Tarun Aggarwal expects all cars to be connected “within a few years”, as does Microsoft, with Ankur Agarwal, CTO Global Delivery Services projecting that by 2025, new car connectivity will be at 100%. But that still means a decade of low penetration, and a mine of untapped data, says Deepak Jain of Bain & Company, with OEMs currently using less than 10% of the data collected in India today. Imagine if more of the data already collected were analysed – and then consider the potential if data were farmed from all of the cars in the parc…

Connectivity – made in India

Connectivity may appear to be a low priority for India’s car buyers, but the country’s automotive industry has it high on the list. Indian consumers are used to an always-online lifestyle, and expect in-car connectivity. Cell phones and aftermarket devices provide basic connectivity, and that’s why Indian OEMs need to own the connected car, said Microsoft’s Agarwal. Ola’s Anand Subramanian, Senior Director of Marketing Communications said during a live Q&A that India’s automotive industry stakeholders “need to figure out how to make innovations through frugal hardware” – a skill for which India is renowned, and it’s already happening. Krishna Prasad, Director Delphi Technical Center India believes India should exploit “its classical IT competence in data protection.” There’s also a healthy start-up culture, noted Visteon’s Sheetal Patil, Global Product Manager, Infotainment. Combine all of these skills and India could be invaluable in the development of connected vehicle technology – for India and globally.

Shared mobility – it’s not for everyone

As ride-hailing giant Ola has proven, connectivity enables mobility – and the potential for on-demand mobility services in India is only just being realised. Mature markets are exploring mobility within a wider, evolving ‘sharing economy’, and Ola’s Subramanian expects almost a quarter of all miles driven to be shared rides within five years, but vehicle ownership remains an aspiration in India. The idea of sharing that hard-earned metal with strangers – even if it sits unused save for a few hours each day – is yet to find favour in India, as noted by Magesh Srinivasan, Global Head – Connected Car & A.I. at HCL Technologies. “There are already platforms for individuals to loan out their car when it is not in use. I’m not sure those are extremely successful in India. Here, people regard cars as a source of personal pride – not everyone is gung-ho about sharing.” An important reminder of cultural subtleties, even in such a global industry.

You want EVs? You gotta get connected!

Think of a bustling Indian city, and you immediately think of congestion and pollution. To improve air quality, the government has ambitious electric vehicle (EV) targets for 2030. To get consumers to go electric, the products need to be irresistible, creating a major opportunity for connectivity. “In EVs, data is mission-critical,” believes HCL’s Srinivasan. “You have to be connected to know the state of charge and distance to empty. If the government wants to achieve electrification, it has to start thinking of connectivity.” Electrification and connectivity go hand-in-hand: produce a desirable connected EV, and consumers will want to buy into that experience.

Connectivity saves lives

When India’s appalling road safety statistics are laid bare, as they were by Santosh Kulkarni, Partner and VP at IBM Global Business Services, it’s clear that drastic change is required – and connectivity could be at the heart of that change. Widespread use of sensors – in the road, in cars, in street furniture, worn by pedestrians; analysis of sensor data to identify traffic jams, breakdowns, traffic incidents and even road conditions; vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication to prevent collisions; all of this is relatively easy to implement. Connectivity is just a part of the solution; it won’t fix bad roads, and it won’t (directly) improve air quality, but get it right, and it will play a major role in preventing crashes, thereby saving lives.

This article appeared in the Q1 2018 issue of Automotive Megatrends Magazine. 

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