The auto industry is on the verge of a major paradigm shift. With Uber, Google, and Tesla all vying to launch the first consumer driverless car, it’s clear the way we get around will forever change once these driverless cars come into full swing. But this shift is affecting more than just the technology on the vehicle itself. Once cars become driverless, the steering wheel will no longer become the command center of the car. Instead, our smartphones will lead the way we travel, communicate, and entertain ourselves on the road.
The imminent ubiquity of driverless cars
Autonomous cars are not far off from the experimental vehicles that Google and others test drive today. Just a few weeks ago, American electric automaker Tesla launched a new autonomous driving functionality for some of its Model X cars called Autopilot.
Tesla’s technology demonstrates how close we are to an era of ubiquitous, driverless cars. The Autopilot came as a software update for Tesla owners, offering an enhanced cruise control functionality using sensors and other hardware already built into the car.
This is just one example of many other gradual autonomous improvements coming to cars. Many other car manufacturers already use some semblance of autonomous technology to provide safer and more convenient driving experiences. Such technology includes automated parallel parking and emergency braking if an obstacle is detected. What was once seen as impossible is now a standard feature in luxury vehicles.
Google is simply one step further along this evolution, and soon we will see Google’s technology inside every car, just as we saw Tesla’s technology gradually spread from one luxury car maker to another. Even though governments remain cautious about the technology, this gradual movement is taking great leaps forward with each passing year. No longer decades away, this technology is only a matter of years from our cars.
The imminent integration of cars and smartphones
This imminent nature of driverless cars is thus fueling new interest in how other technology will integrate with these highly computerized vehicles. Every computer needs a command center, as we shift toward driverless cars, that command center will no longer be our steering wheels, but instead the smartphones we already know and love.
We can already see how smartphones are integrating more deeply with our vehicles. Services such as Android Auto and Apple Carplay already exist and are designed around integrating consumer entertainment experiences and services, such as music and GPS, to our specific interests and needs while driving.
Manufacturers like Hyundai currently offer remote car controls through smartphone apps. Once a device is authorized and securely connected, it can handle all sorts of vehicle functions, such as cooling and directions, but also our personal entertainment needs, such as radio, music, and even other content as driverless cars become ubiquitous.
A future full of opportunities
As driverless cars begin to roll out, new opportunities will emerge for developers interested in creating new experiences from within our cars. Smartphones will provide the tools to pick your destination, watch and enjoy live content, and even get work done while commuting on the road from our autonomous vehicles. Companies can provide integrated experiences in our cars just as we’ve seen smart technology arrive in our appliances, our TVs, and other places beyond the computer.
This endless integration is just the next step with this evolution in technology. Firms should realize that driverless cars are not just revolutionizing how we drive, but also how we consume content, just as smartphones did eight years ago.