Automakers must work with each other to improve connectivity, PSA’s Gautier Falconnet tells Louis Bedigian. [Tele.Bedigian.2016.09.01]

Connectivity is expected to play a huge role in the future of automobiles. From autonomy and safety to convenience and entertainment, automakers are attempting to connect their cars to each other, smart cities and devices.

Gautier Falconnet, a connectivity specialist at Peugeot-Citroën PSA Group, believes this is changing the way cars are developed. Up until now, automakers had complete control over every part of the vehicle. If they wanted to make a change, all they had to do was discuss it internally and come up with a plan. That is no longer the case. “When we are talking car-to-car or a car that connects to a phone, it’s no longer one carmaker that decides and can do it alone,” said Falconnet. “He has to talk to all the carmakers to align to a standard or he has to talk to all the phone makers to align to a standard that can be used in order to handle interoperability and good integration.” Falconnet said this has spawned an ecosystem that offers “incredible new opportunities” for the auto industry.

More than smartphones

Automakers are currently focused on bringing smartphones and tablets into the car but there are other devices that could provide relevant features – including wearables. Falconnet explained: “If you are thinking about remote [controls], the interesting thing about wearables [is that] you can reconfigure, based on your needs or based on where you are. That may be one of the elements that will make a wearable more than just a remote but a remote that can adapt. Most of the other [attempts] are either a prototype, an experiment or [a] simple use case that makes sense in the car and to demonstrate the potential of wearables.”

Moving target

Many automakers are exploring how they can connect to smart home systems in a meaningful way. Falconnet referred to this as a “moving target” and spoke about the difficulty in hitting that target while developing automobiles over a multi-year cycle.

“And when the car is out, the usual process [is that] it takes at least five more years to change anything,” said Falconnet. “In the connected home, one thing that is important is to have a standard that we can integrate in cars and not to be brand-dependent. The brand comes and goes.”

Falconnet suggested that all service providers should provide an app experience that is the same across automobiles and devices. “In the end, this is what matters for the end user,” he continued. “[The user] doesn’t care how it’s done – he wants to know if the door of his home is locked or he wants to know if his wife is coming back with the kids. This is what he wants to know.” PSA Group is looking to meet those needs by integrating with MirrorLink and other connectivity platforms.

The role of software

Connectivity would be nothing without software. Falconnet acknowledged its importance and referred to software developers as the “new center of innovation.” He said: “The innovation, more and more, comes with the software. In terms of autonomous driving, the software would be one of the key elements – how the software can adapt to any situation, how the software can adapt to the driver.”

 

On that note, Falconnet also wants to know how autonomous vehicles will impact the passengers inside. “Can it make decisions, be very vigilant for you?” he wondered. “How does it impact the user experience for everyone on board?”

Unknown dangers

Security issues have plagued connected devices for years. Now it looks to become an issue for automobiles. Falconnet is concerned but said the industry is taking this “very seriously”. “Companies [need to] get more and more experts in connectivity and more experts in security related to connectivity,” said Falconnet. “The car companies are also getting contracts with security experts – very big security experts – in order to understand what risk they are exposed to and handle this.”

Automakers are trying to ensure that smartphones are not connected directly to critical parts of the car. That could help prevent threat actors from overtaking the vehicle but that may not be enough. Software updates could be needed to provide an additional layer of security. “In case a security issue is found, [updates] can be published overnight to all of the vehicles in order to fix the issue or fix the potential [problem],” said Falconnet.

Driver benefits

When asked about unique ways that drivers could benefit from smartphone integration, Falconnet smiled and replied: “I invite you to see our cars in a couple of years.” Without giving anything away, he then provided a bit of speculation hinting at where things could be headed: “What if the user can do stuff with his car – prepare his next trip or precondition the car when it’s winter even if he’s not close to the car?”

Consumer Telematics Show 2017

04 Jan 2017, Las Vegas, USA

The Consumer Telematics Show (CTS) kicks off the calendar year for the connected car community, serving two strategic purposes; it gives automakers a platform for new partnership and product announcements and acts as the largest and most focused meeting point for 500+ automotive execs before International CES®.