Smart cars the next big thing: How features on Safari, City and more are making life easier

These cars are capable of over-the-air software updates, just like your smartphone. There are lakhs of such cars running on Indian roads already.

By:Updated: Feb 28, 2021 10:39 AM
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The new Honda City has a unique feature: You can speak into an Amazon Alexa device at home and ask the car to switch on the AC as you get ready for office. How about “Alexa, ask Honda to start the AC and set temperature to cool”. Thanks to internet of things (IoT), which you may have experienced in everyday life for things such as automatic lighting and smart refrigerators, a ‘connected car’ is emerging as a popular IoT device. These cars have an inbuilt eSIM, and features such as voice-based navigation, voice-assisted phone calls, in-car air quality monitoring, remote engine start, and so on. These cars are also capable of over-the-air software updates, just like your smartphone. There are lakhs of such cars running on Indian roads already.

Kia Motors has sold more than 1,15,000 connected cars (over 50% of its total sales) since the company launched the Seltos on August 22, 2019. Its connected technology is called the UVO and is available in select variants of all models. Hyundai’s tech is called the Blue Link and it’s currently being offered in six models — i20, Venue, Creta, Elantra, Tucson and Verna. The company has sold over 1,05,464 connected cars since the Venue (touted to be India’s first connected car) was launched on May 21, 2019. Honda has sold over 20,000 units of the City with Alexa remote capabilities (this connected feature is not an option in the City, but is standard).

Last year Ford introduced its connectivity solution FordPass as a standard feature across all its models and variants. All BS6 Ford cars get a factory-fitted, cloud-connected device that facilitates real-time information exchange — like vehicle health alerts and location, fuel information, and so on — between the car and the FordPass app. Over 81,000 Ford cars now have FordPass.

Tata Motors has developed a tech called the iRA (Intelligent Real time Assist) that is being offered in the Altroz and Safari. “We would introduce connected car tech across our model range,” Shailesh Chandra, president, passenger vehicles business unit, Tata Motors, told FE. MG Motor’s tech is called the iSMART (developed by MG in partnership with Microsoft, Adobe, Unlimit, SAP, Cisco, Gaana, TomTom and Nuance). It’s available in select variant of all models. “There is a positive consumer perception of connected vehicles that appears to be edging up in the Indian market, as consumers feel that increased vehicle connectivity will be beneficial,” said Rajeev Singh, partner & automotive leader, Deloitte India.

In addition to convenience, these cars also offer safety features. For example, if the car breaks down, a notification goes to 24-hour roadside assistance, or to emergency services in case of an accident. If the car gets stolen, it can be tracked and even immobilised. Som Kapoor, partner, automotive sector, EY India, said connectivity is one of the four pillars of the future of mobility, defined as the ACES (autonomous, connected, electric, shared). “A paradigm shift is taking place towards connectivity,” he said. “And it’s not limited to cars; it’s there in kitchen devices, home appliances, etc, and going forward all these IoT devices will ‘talk’ to each other.”

Sanjeev Garg, practice leader, automotive, Praxis Global Alliance, attributed a lot of connected car sales to both snob value and familiarity. “This generation has grown up on technology; it wants the latest iPhone, latest Android, latest Apple Watch, so why not the latest in in-car tech?”

Santosh Iyer, vice-president, sales and marketing, Mercedes-Benz India, added that luxury car customers in particular have IoT devices at home, and “they want a similar level of connectivity in their cars as well”. The company’s connected car feature is called ‘Mercedes me connect’, currently being used by more than 5,000 customers. While most of these connected cars have a factory-fitted eSIM, smart car features have been around for a while.

Maruti Suzuki Connect, for example, is a telematics solution that can be installed through the Nexa app, and is available in the Baleno, Ciaz, Ignis, S-Cross and XL6. Customers can access features such as emergency alerts, vehicle tracking, driving behaviour analysis, car assistance, driving analytics report, and so on. Others include Honda Connect (a dongle that fits any Honda car that has OBD-II port), and Toyota Connect and Nissan Connect (both reside in an app).

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