The smart car, a vehicle with a high-speed broadband Internet connection and digital add-on features such as touch screens and voice controls, is the next frontier in consumer entertainment in a big way. With governments such as that of the UK and US opening up legislation to allow connected- and self-driving cars on the roads, financing is set to pour into the segment as cars become platforms for apps and various add-ons. The London corporate finance scene is set to embrace this new sector with aplomb.
Traditional living room entertainment has been in flux for a number of years. With the adoption of mobile devices, consumers have moved further away from their home in playing games and shopping online. However, the vehicle has remained somewhat of a laggard in providing entertainment options, especially for the low-cost, mass market.
Consumers can still travel with their in-car smartphone and mobile Internet, but connections can be unreliable and interactions with the actual on-board system are limited. Furthermore, only around a third of the world’s mobile subscribers have mobile Internet, and much of it is still very slow.
This is all about to change, however. A number of auto manufacturers are already fitting onboard infotainment touch-screens on their models, while Apple has unveiled car-specific software for apps and voice automation. US electric car manufacturer Tesla houses a 3G-enabled web browser for internet on the go and the company has guaranteed free data connectivity until 2018. Passengers can already enjoy most home comforts in the car. Once car manufacturers begin to install high-speed broadband routers, the car may even surpass the home as the more active living room space. With 100 million light vehicle sales expected by 2019, there is certainly plenty of motivation to serve communications-hungry consumers with the latest in-car features.
Nonetheless, there are challenges to the market. The manufacturing auto cycle can take up to three years, meaning progress is much slower than in smartphones or other consumer appliances. Manufacturers also have to develop partnerships with technology firms and telecom operators – something they do not like to do.
The ultimate challenge for the car market is to free the driver from his responsibilities, via the self-driving car. This would allow the redesign of the car space to fit a more leisurely frame, rather than the current forward-facing driver-centric design. However, the car industry does not expect autonomous driving to become a mainstream breakthrough for at least another 20 years. Until then, the electric car and the connected smart car are a much stronger bet for technology firms.
A conversation is never wasted. We’re confident that we can give you all the help you need, but we’ll tell you if we think there’s a better option for you.Get in Touch