The new Honda City—to be launched this week—has a unique feature: You can speak into an Amazon Alexa device at your home and ask the car to switch on the AC even as you get ready for office: “Alexa, ask Honda to start my car AC and set temperature to cool.” It’s called the Internet of things (IoT), and while you may have experienced the IoT in everyday lives—such as automatic lighting in some offices – a ‘connected car’ is the most noticeable IoT device. But what does being ‘connected’ mean? ‘Connected’ can be as simple as Bluetooth connectivity, to as complex as a car connected to the infrastructure, which itself has to be smart. Today, almost every new car launched in India has a Bluetooth connectivity option, but some have taken connectivity to new levels—Kia Seltos and Carnival, Hyundai Venue and Creta, MG Motor Hector, and now the new Honda City.
And these cars are substantial in numbers. Last week Kia Motors India announced it has more than 50,000 ‘activated’ connected cars running on Indian roads. Its connected technology is called the UVO, which can be accessed via a smartphone app, a smartwatch or sitting inside the car and saying ‘Hello Kia’. While the UVO is available as an option on the Seltos SUV, it is a standard feature on the Carnival premium MPV. Customers use the technology they see value in: Of the 94,000-odd cars Kia India has sold in less than a year, over 50% are connected. Its third product, the Sonet compact SUV, to be launched soon, will also be a connected car. The UVO offers more than 50 features such as voice-based navigation, voice-assisted phone calls, in-car air quality monitoring, remote engine start, and so on.
Hyundai, which launched the first so-called connected car in India, the Venue SUV, now offers its Blue Link technology on three more models—the Creta, the Elantra and the Verna—and will introduce it in this week’s launch, the new Tucson, becoming the company that offers the maximum number of connected car models in India. Both Hyundai and Kia have developed this technology in-house. Honda India has taken the app plus third-party device route. In the new City you can control 32 connectivity features using the Honda Connect mobile app; 10 of these can be accessed via an Alexa device. For example, if you’re at the breakfast table and the phone isn’t handy, you can speak into a connected Alexa device by saying ‘Alexa, ask Honda’ and check the car’s fuel level, tyre pressure, and so on.
The iSMART Next Gen technology that powers the Hector has been developed by MG Motor in partnership with Microsoft, Adobe, Unlimit, SAP, Cisco, Gaana, TomTom and Nuance. The Hector also has an embedded Machine-to-Machine SIM—the solution has been developed by Unlimit (a Reliance Group company for IoT services), in partnership with Cisco Jasper and Airtel. In addition to connectivity features, the Hector is the first car in India that is capable of doing over-the-air software updates; these happen every three months.
In certain aspects, a connected truck is more advanced than a connected car—a connected truck can reduce the total cost of ownership for an operator/driver. All commercial vehicle (CV) manufacturers offer some connectivity solutions.
Tata Motors: It has been offering a telematics solution called ‘Fleetman’ on its vehicles since 2014. There are about 2 lakh Tata M&HCVs plying on Indian roads with factory-fitted telematics units, providing features such as track& trace, driver behaviour monitoring, geo-fencing, etc. Traditionally, connectivity in CVs was achieved via external SIM cards, including for Fleetman. But the new generation of Tata connected trucks get the eUICC (embedded SIM).
VECV: In addition to features such as track & trace, tracking fuel-efficiency data and fuel pilferage, driver performance data, VECV recently inaugurated India’s first uptime centre with 24×7 service support and remote diagnostics. For the operator/ driver, this centre can offer predictive maintenance data and diagnostic-related advice. VECV’s connected trucks fall under the Eicher Live umbrella, and are fitted with an eSIM provided by Vodafone, but with a number portability feature.
Ashok Leyland: Its connected vehicle technology iAlert can help drivers/operators track driver behaviour, track the truck, and provide insights on fuel pilferage, among other things. The company is now launching an uptime solutions centre as well.
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