Connected Car Expo and LA Autoshow

 

“Designed as a comprehensive “one-stop” resource to be held in conjunction with the Los Angeles Auto Show, the CCE combines the global industry stature and media power of the LA Auto Show Press Days with a unique thought leadership forum consisting of the top influencers in the connected car space.”
The Connected Car Expo was a welcome addition to this year’s LA AutoShow.  It’s always interesting to see so many of the major players of the telematics industry in one room, even if it doesn’t always result in groundbreaking developments.  It’s a natural fit for the auto show and I expect the event to come back next year.
Unfortunately I’d say that overall, I got the feeling that for 2013 showcasing the vehicle electronics had taken a step back from the hype of previous years.  The vendor exhibits were fairly limited and only occupied the South Hall lobby.  The only real Verizon or OnStar presence I saw at the show was in small booths in this area.
It is worth noting that contrary to my observation there is some buzz that connected cars will have a significant presence at the 2014 CES.
I would anecdotally attribute this pull back to the fact that the industry is a bit stagnate.  While all the automakers are now on board with the idea that telematics are an important part of the automotive package, the industry as a whole continues to argue about, and not make progress on, issues of safety, engagement, privacy and ???.  10 years ago the OEMs were unable to implement many cutting edge telematics technologies because of potential safety issues and today we’re facing the same problems while smartphones continue their rapid growth.
 
As far as smartphone controls for your car go, we’ve seen the bulk of the innovation for now.  These days everyone can unlock a new car with their phone or bluetooth their music into the sound system.  Most of the new features of smartphone apps seem to be more related to electric car management than to infotainment.  Those that are infotainment related are minor evolutions of existing features.
The expert panel discussions I was able to attend included a number of significant industry players and I found a few snippets interesting, but as is often the case, there was not a lot of discussion that hasn’t been heard before.
For example, someone made the point (and I apologize for not having the attribution) that we have the technology to support a fully autonomous mated vehicle ecosystem.  The roadblock is actually the legacy infrastructure.  That is, if we wiped the landscape clear of all the existing cars and roads, we have the technology to implement a fully functional autonomous infrastructure.  Looking back it seems like an almost obvious point (especially considering we have a car on Mars that can drive itself), but it’s very interesting to me.  We’re no longer waiting for technology to catch up.  We’re actually waiting for old technology to die!  The complexity of combining human and robotic drivers on the road is the real hurdle to autonomous vehicles.  Some states are already allowing various versions of self driving cars, but regulation and infrastructure will have to evolve quickly.
I think the most interesting conversation I encountered was the the panel discussion regarding the crossover between driver distraction and big data.  The industry is essentially on pause until we figure out how to overcome issues of driver distraction and the only way to really figure out what is and isn’t distracting is proper scientific study.
Bruce Mehler, Research Scientist, MIT AgeLab and the New England University Transportation Center, spoke about some of the research they are doing as it relates to driver distraction.  I think this type of research will be at the center of how and when we ‘crack the code’ around driver distraction.  In the future, expect more details on who is researching what and where that research will lead us.
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