There is a lot of emphasis on how connected cars will save us time by avoiding traffic, finding a parking space or reading our email to us and more. Michael Knappe, SVP Technology for Harman Lifestyle Audio, says connectivity will allow us to do much more than save time – and it’s all closer than we think.
Connectivity will also entertain us and allow us to most of the time we have. Infotainment affords manufacturers huge potential to offer a richer and more immersive experience to drivers and passengers. This ‘feet off, hands off, eyes off and brain off’ transformation is closer than we think.
Recent surveys confirm that the car is still the place where people enjoy listening to music. Cloud-based music servers are already here, providing access to millions of tracks; there is no longer a physical restriction to how much music we can carry in the car.
Connectivity makes the car a flexible ‘data centre’ that could collect and share information from a huge range of sources. It will know what music we like to play when we are on our way to work, or to the gym, and what tracks to suggest when the children are in the car.
This personalisation will create an opportunity for car makers to enjoy a new relationship with their customers through unique experiences. As we are freed from the physical act of driving through autonomy, car makers will transport occupants – virtually and auditorily – from the car environment to somewhere else completely.
Augmenting reality for our enjoyment
Volvo’s XC90 features an audio system that recreates the acoustic qualities of the world-famous Gothenburg Concert Hall in one of its three listening modes. This is just the beginning – soon we will be able not just hear the music but also see the musicians through advanced display technology across the windscreen. Or maybe there will be a hologram that immerses us in a different world altogether.
Recent technology concepts have shown how it could be possible to recreate the sounds and sights of a beach or forest through immersive audio technology and use of the glasshouse in the car to transport consumers to another place.
The windscreen and other car windows will become part of the integrated user interface, acting as additional displays that can have graphics overlaid on them for augmented reality applications. This will alter our experience within the self-driving, connected car of the future.
Marketeers see great opportunities here; imagine driving past a restaurant and the car displays the menu, highlights the specials and shows a video of the chef at work. The opportunities for brands to get involved are endless.
Sharing with strangers
Creating an in-car experience in our own car is one stream of development, but consumers are expected to share that in-car space with strangers as we move more towards sharing rather than owning. Personalisation will still be desirable, and with as many options as possible. This is leading to the development of configurable entertainment concepts that allow shared mobility providers to offer multiple in-car brand and entertainment experiences in the same vehicle.
Once connected to the car, for instance, through a user’s smartphone, their personal profile can be accessed via the cloud and the car can adjust the system settings for customised entertainment according to the individual’s preferences.
Now, one user can select an in-vehicle gaming or a heart-pounding concert experience for their ride; while the next passenger – in the same vehicle – can choose a completely different moment, such as watching a movie or enjoying a more intimate music performance to enhance their trip.
Our automotive world is changing very rapidly. Partnerships between audio and consumer service brands will expand and boundaries will blur. Expect seamless transitions between home and the car. But whatever location and whatever the music, it will be a thrilling experience.