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Your Car—A Home Away From Home

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Feb. 4, 2021—In a recent attempt to get their children away from a screen and outside, two parents shut off their house’s WiFi connection and, much to their surprise, enjoyed a quiet house. Once the home became too quiet, suspicions set in and they started looking for their wireless children, only to find them sitting in the family SUV, fully connected. 

Andrew Poliak, chief technology officer for Panasonic Automotive, told this story at the beginning of a virtual event for the Consumer Electronics Show, to illustrate how advanced today’s vehicles are, and maybe even today’s kids.

The event, titled “Vehicle Tech Innovations Consumers Want,” covered emerging vehicle technologies in the realm of safety, entertainment, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what’s on the horizon. 


The Use Case

Carla Bailo, president and CEO of the Center for Automotive Research, said the way drivers view and use their vehicles has shifted dramatically with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“People are using [their] cars as a cocoon, a COVID pod, even as an office to get out of their house,” she said. “The lighting is great, the sound is great, and you can connect.” 

Poliak said today’s vehicles are shifting from the third space, which he classified as ‘home and work,’ to the second space—entertainment. 


Entertainment on Wheels

Poliak said a large area of focus for both companies and consumers has been audio technologies. He said the technologies have come so far as to offer “specialized audio experiences for your car that you can’t even do from your phone.” 

He also noted the increasing number of displays found in cars, some with built-in features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and even Amazon’s Alexa.  

“Twenty-five percent of [CAR’s] research shows that people aren’t even driving the car before they buy it,” Bailo said, “Consumers have chosen infotainment and connectivity.” 

Take for example Volkswagen’s 2021 Atlas—it has its own Bluetooth, WiFi hotspot, and a USB port, all centered around a 6.5-inch touchscreen, according to U.S. News.  If that’s not enough, you can opt for the Atlas SE which features an 8-inch touchscreen display, smartphone charging pad, three USB ports, and a 12-speaker Fender sound system. 

“People are falling in love with their second-most lived-in spaces,” Poliak said during the live event, “Their car.” 


Unparalleled Personalization 

Personalizing your vehicle is no longer as simple as choosing a color or sacrificing grammar for a license plate, for today’s vehicles, personalization is a world of choices. 

Christiane Zorn, senior director of product marketing for Audi, said vehicles can be outfitted to cater to a driver’s needs, even down to their seasonal needs. 

“One buyer might need certain lighting to handle winters, whereas a driver in another location may not,” she said. 

Stephen Buerkle, senior vice president of sales and cross domain computing at Bosch, said vehicle personalization can go beyond geographical settings, even into demographic segments like age or gender. He also noted that outfitting vehicles based on demographic lowers manufacturing complexity.

Zorn said that age is a particularly important figure. “Newcomers have different requirements than a 50-year-old driver,” she said, noting the varying expectations. 

Even with all of those options before you drive the car, Zorn said there is a world of choices after the fact with over-the-air updates. “Even if you buy it used, you can still make it your car,” she said. 

Buerkle echoed Zorn when he said “OTA updates are not a trend, because they’re here. The trend is, ‘What can we do with it?’”


Image: Volkswagen

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