The connected cars of today could ultimately take us on the path of autonomous vehicles. But that is a long path of evolution and the connected cars now are getting better at what they do and becoming less dependent on the smartphone for connectivity. We connected with Tae-Jin Park, Executive Director and Chief Sales Officer of Kia Motors India, to understand a bit more about the smart cars of today and what his company is doing in this space.
Edited excerpts from an email interview:
How do you make a car smart? What are the guiding principles companies look at? What problems do they want to solve?
The lines between different technologies are blurring and just like a smartphone, a car should also cater to all the needs of today’s customers. Telematics is the field that is making our cars smart and at the moment Kia is the connected car leader in India. We offer smart cars with plethora of Advanced Connected/Smart features such as remote vehicle control, AI-powered voice commands, OTA (Over the Air) map updates, dedicated 24X7 contact centre support for emergency and concierge services.
At Kia, we build smart cars on the three guiding principles of Safety, Security and Convenience. There are many problems under these categories which a smart car can solve. For example – three buttons, equipped on the IRVM (Inside Rear View Mirror) of our vehicles namely SOS, RSA (Road Side Assistance) and UVO, not only prove useful during emergency situations but also offer convenience to our customers in just one push of a button.
A lot of the features we see now are what you also have on the phone? Is that going to change?
A car is no longer just a mode of commute; it is an extension of one’s personality. Today’s Internet-savvy generation has evolved connectivity needs, which are not limited only to their smartphones. They expect similar seamless access to the Internet world even with their cars along with the ease of mobility. And as we move into the future, connectivity will be more than just a feature but a necessity in the contemporary world.
Most of the features in our connected cars are an integration of car-specific and phone features. Like Remote Engine Start/Stop or Live Car Tracking etc. requires both the technology to come together. In addition to this, there are many car specific features as well. To give you an example, Kia cars are equipped with embedded M2M (Machine to Machine) SIM with which in-car features like SOS, RSA (Road Side Assistance), ACN (Auto Collision Notification) and POI (Point of Interest / Destination Support) that could only be possible with phones earlier.
In the future, the connectivity features will only increase and so do the integration of phone and car along with car specific technologies. Features like V2V (Vehicle to Vehicle) technology would not require a phone to run. Similarly, we can witness features like V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) or V2P (Vehicle to Pedestrian), that will not require a phone to work. Since the evolution of connected cars, it has been challenging the conventional definition of mobility and we are sure it will never stop as the possibilities are endless.
How much customer feedback do you take before looking for new features?
At Kia, we believe in innovation driven by customer needs and demands, which is reflected in all our products. Our product strategy is designed to keep millennial and Gen Z consumers in mind. Upon entering India, we conducted deep-rooted research for more than two years that helped us in understanding the local market and customise the cars with the required features accordingly. We witnessed many unmet demands of the Indian audience and hence, putting all our research together we came up with our product and pricing strategy which hit the sweet spot.
Our research & development team and product planning team work together to develop the best possible product keeping all the external factors in mind before introducing any new product/ features/ services etc. Based on our research and feedback from customers, we take a call on the requirement of a particular feature in that particular time.
How often do you add new features as updates? Is that easy to do in a car?
We analyse the market trends over time and then only roll-out any feature updates. We keep enhancing the capability of connected car technology with each product event like Model Year Change or New Product Launch. We also try to pass-on the enhancement to our existing customers through software updates if possible. In today’s world with advanced contactless tech like OTA (Over the Air) updates are much more simplified with the possibility of further service expansion. We are among the first few manufacturers in India who introduced OTA technology in the car.
As cars become smarter, are there fears around security?
Our customers are at the focal point of our strategy and hence securing their data becomes one of our primary focuses. We apply the best industry practices for data protection that comply with government guidelines and have partnered with leading companies to provide our security infrastructure for the same.
How much are car companies looking forward to 5G to enhance the feature offerings?
The global rollout of 5G is going to disrupt many industries, and similarly, the automobile industry will also witness a lot of changes. 5G will basically enhance the communication between customers and their vehicles and will offer a seamless driving experience. It gives the OEMs flexibility to explore and introduce connected features that require high speed and low latency.
However, connected car technology is still a new concept in India. 5G introduction in India is at a nascent stage and the timeline for its official roll-out is still unclear. As a leading brand in the connected car space, Kia is well equipped to embrace the new age of seamless connectivity. We are constantly analysing the evolving consumer trends and will introduce new features in connected car technology as and when the market is ready.