Drivers want their cars to get to know them better

More than 80% of drivers under 35 think their in-vehicle technology is lacking and not intuitive to their needs, a new survey revealed.

Consumers want their vehicles to anticipate their personal technology demands and to provide the same functionality as their mobile devices, according to a survey.

Because of the technology gap in vehicles, consumers are more likely to use their smartphones to access apps and information while driving, most commonly the apps  for navigation (54%) and music (44%).

The survey, entitled Automotive Connectivity and the Generational Divide, was performed by Lochbridge, an IT services company. The online survey was conducted in June through Google Consumer Surveys and involved 1,490 respondents from age 18 through 65.

The survey found millennials want that access to more than navigation in their vehicles; they want smartphone apps and mobile entertainment, too. Eighty percent of the respondents under the age of 35 indicated that they wished their vehicles better understood their tech preferences, could predict what they needed and guide them appropriately.

"More than three-in-four young adults - ages 18-to-35 - say they want in-vehicle innovation that goes beyond access to applications. They want cars that know them personally," Bob Kennedy, vice president of Lochbridge's Automotive group, said in a statement. "Millennials are always-on and always-connected."

Not surprisingly, the survey found that 53% of respondents viewed mobile technology as being more advanced than in-vehicle technology.

Automakers have long recognized that they can't keep up with the pace of mobile technology because vehicle development cycles can be three or more years long. One possible solution would be to create telematics platforms based on open source code with modular hardware that could be updated periodically.

Mobile device integration is among the most difficult issues facing the auto industry today, according to Mark Boyadjis, a senior analyst for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems at IHS Automotive.

Mobile devices need to communicate with the IVI system, and that doesn't always work well, depending on which version of iOS, Android or which device a consumer uses.

One of the main reasons for the limited functionality of most IVIs is that car manufacturers use proprietary software developed by third-party suppliers to power their infotainment systems, meaning car-based apps are also proprietary.

"If gaps exist between automotive and mobile technologies, they turn to their smartphones for in-vehicle information and application needs," Kennedy said.

Having an open-source IVI operating system would create a reusable platform consisting of core services, middleware and open application layer interfaces that eliminate the redundant efforts to create separate proprietary systems. By developing an open-source platform, carmakers can share upgrades as they arrive.

Automakers could then focus on differentiating their infotainment systems through their user interfaces, which only make up about 5% to 10% of the software in the IVIs.

"We're leveraging essentially an $11 billion investment already made in Linux by many other companies including IBM and Intel," said Rudi Streif, who leads the Automotive Grade Linux workgroup for the Linux Foundation. "We can essentially get the platform for free from a royalty sense. Of course, we have to spend resources to make it work in our particular platforms."

Three automakers that have rolled out Linux-based platforms on a limited number of models are GM's Cadillac division, which uses Linux in its Cue IVI; Tesla offers a 17-in. IVI screen in its Model S all-electric cars; and Toyota uses a Linux-based IVI in the 2014 Lexus IS.

The younger the respondents, the more preferences for in-vehicle access to mobile apps. For example, 64% of 18 to 24-year-old respondents indicated they want mobile app access, but that number dropped to 32% in 45- to 54-year-olds, and to  23% among 55- to 64-year-olds.

"I think what we're going to see is an ecosystem of services because it's very hard to anticipate what all the changes are going to be throughout the life of a vehicle," Bart Brotsos, technology sales manager for Oracle's Automotive Group, said while speaking on a panel at the Telematics Detroit conference earlier this year.

Brotsos said IVI systems should be able to "self-personalize," or learn wants and behaviors and feed drivers information that's appropriate.

Lochbridge's survey found that when it comes to what millennials want, most respondents indicated they would pay extra for some things more than others.

Almost 75% of young adults surveyed indicated they would pay more for a vehicle that makes them safer as drivers. Across all generations of consumers surveyed, 67% indicated the same.

The study, however, found that age makes a difference when it comes to who wants in-vehicle technology. While 61% of survey respondents under the age of 45 indicated that they want to safely and easily access applications and information while in a vehicle, only 25% of those over the age of 45 indicated the same.

Jonathan Tarlton, a senior manager for streaming music service Spotify, said older drivers tend to associate the term "interactive" with "complicated," when what they want is less distractions while driving.

"When they're seeing different apps and things plugged into screens, and listening to music... on their smartphone, this is a new concept," Tarlton said. "That's a big barrier for the 45+ demographic."

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