By : RACHNA TYAGI
With cars becoming an extension of a person and his/her personality, the need to stay connected 24/7 has become a war cry for buyers and vehicle manufacturers are doing all they can to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction. And that effort calls for a lot of connected technology inside a vehicle that keeps the user seamlessly fused with the world outside.
Thus, it is not surprising that vehicle connectivity ranks among the top global automotive megatrends along with electrification, autonomous mobility, shared mobility and artificial intelligence, among others. In India, where tech walks the car talk, a high level of in-vehicle connectivity has become a must-have when considering vehicle purchase and passenger vehicle manufacturers are pulling out all the stops to ensure that their vehicles are equipped with all the bells and whistles on the connectivity front.
We connected with some leading car manufacturers to know more about the connected vehicle technologies in their existing model range and future trends.
Hyundai connects via Blue-link
Recognising the customer shift towards 24/7 connectivity, Korean carmaker Hyundai Motor India plugged into the mega trend wave in 2019. The company introduced its Blue-link connected car tech in May 2019 and since then over 300,000 Hyundai hatchbacks, sedans and SUVs are Blue-link-ed.
According to Tarun Garg, Director, (Sales, Marketing & Service) Hyundai Motor India Ltd., (HMIL), the game-changer was the inclusion of the Alexa and Google Voice assistant. With ‘Home to Car (H2C)’, Hyundai car users got familiar with the Alexa and Google Voice assistant functionality which enabled access via Blue-link to a host of connected car features including remote climate control / door lock and unlock / vehicle status check, find my car, fuel level and tyre pressure information, speed alert, idle time alert and geo-fencing.
In September 2022, Blue-link customers further benefited from Hyundai’s partnership with Indian Oil Corp and the country’s first digital platform for purchasing fuel. There is also Hyundai’s partnership with Park + which gives Blue-Linkers exclusive access to parking slots operated by Park + across India.
Garg believes that like the global car industry, the shift from hardware-defined vehicles is underway to Software Defined Vehicles (SDVs). SDVs will bring about a paradigm shift in customer convenience and also vehicle maintenance, which is what Hyundai plans to do in India too.
Staying connected Kia-style
If there is one company which has taken a speed ride on the connectivity mega trend, then it is Kia. Even before the launch of its first product, the Seltos SUV in August 2019, Kia India had its online sales channel ready.
Kia, which was one of the early adopters of connected car tech with the Seltos, has ensured that every new model – Sonet, Carnival, Carens and EV6 – has progressively delivered even more improved and fine-tuned features. The in-built Kia Connect app offers 66 smart features including voice-command-based automated, in-cabin operations like live traffic information, sunroof control, weather report.
With young India connecting in a big way with connected cars, the company’s monthly sales reflect the market trend. About 50 percent of Kias – over 260,000 – plying on Indian roads are equipped with connected car features. According to Kia India “We have also made a conscious decision to keep coming up with game-changing products in popular segments, introducing customers to a whole new experience of owning a Kia.” “The Indian passenger vehicle market is undergoing a transformation due to changing customer trends, increased desire for the latest features and demand for cutting-edge connected-car technology. Customers prefer features like connected cars, sophisticated infotainment system, sunroof and cruise control among others. India’s connected car market is expected to grow by over 20% in the next few years,” says Kia India.
“We have been an early adopter of connected car tech and it is our constant endeavour to offer class-leading, customer-centric and innovation-led products and we’ll continue to offer that to the ever-evolving customer,” says the company.
Mahindra works on connected tech as a key differentiator
Mahindra, which is riding a wave of demand for its SUVs, is benefitting from the high level of connectivity in its range. Velusamy R, President, Automotive Technology & Product Development - M&M Ltd., says, “We offer several differentiating features such as personalised safety alert, in-car apps like Thrillophilia, Zomato and India Today making travel safer, convenient and fun. The Mahindra XUV700 is the first vehicle in India to offer integrated Alexa, making travel, staying connected and getting entertained easier. Also, when at home, customers can use the custom ‘Mahindra Skill’ for Alexa to manage vehicle information such as fuel level or tyre pressure, and remotely give commands for locking or unlocking the car door, preparing cabin temperature, and more. These connected car features have become trendsetters in the market.”
Commenting on upcoming new tech, Velusamy R states: “We will have a world of technologies like 5G, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality converging in the physical world of the car, providing an enthralling experience to customers. Connected cars will break the monotony in long-distance driving by providing personalised and contextualised entertainment and gaming options. Connected cars will also make mobility more energy efficient and simple through predictive maintenance and route planning.”
However, what’s set to redefine safety is C-V2X (Cellular Vehicle to Anything) technology. “We will have holistic integration across road infrastructure, traffic signals, emergency services, and pedestrian /cyclist movement. For example, the route for an ambulance headed to a hospital can be prioritized and cleared without manual intervention.
Hazardous accident locations can be communicated to the car’s screen and accidents due to poor visibility can be avoided as communication can be brought inside the screen.”
Tata Motors: connectivity on the go
Tata Motors’ mantra for connectivity is embodied in the new ZConnect app which boasts multiple connected features. The Tiago.ev will be the first in its category to offer telematics as standard feature on all trims. The ZConnect app will offer 45 connected car features which include Remote AC On/Off with temperature setting, remote geo fencing and car location tracking, smartwatch connectivity, remote vehicle health diagnostics, real-time charge status, dynamic charger locator, and driving style analytics amongst others. In addition, customers benefit from an 8-speaker Harman Infotainment System with Android Auto and Apple Car Play connectivity.
The ZConnect app is available on their EVs and offers advanced connected car features that will electrify the drive experience with seamless connection. Intuitive and easy to use, this app is designed to meet the aspirations of contemporary and tech-savvy consumer. Some of the Zconnect features can also be accessed through a smartwatch.
A host of dedicated EV features make the EV experience even better. These include remote monitoring of the current charge levels, available range, charging history and nearest charging stations. An interesting feature is ‘Sharing Live Location’, wherein a user can share and get his/her live location tracked by chosen friends/relatives (for additional security).
MG Motor India: Ahead of the tech curve
MG Motor India was early in recognising and also capitalising on the new-age consumer who is keen on a smarter and safer driving experience. As a conduit of automated vehicle technology, MG Motor India was the first carmaker in the country to launch Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). ADAS software driving solutions significantly improve driving safety and comfort by tuning the software to Indian roads.
The company has many segment-firsts to its credit when it comes to technology features in its cars. The MG Hector was India’s first SUV with internet inside, and was followed by the ‘Pure Electric Internet SUV’ ZS EV and India’s first autonomous (Level 1) premium SUV, the Gloster. MG went on to introduce India’s first SUV with personal AI assistant and Autonomous (Level 2) – the Astor.
Commenting on future trends, Gaurav Gupta, Chief Commercial Officer, MG Motor India says, “With evolving consumer expectations, ongoing trends are focused on digital transformation where cars are no longer just vehicles for mobility but an ecosystem of on demand, in-car services. The shift towards electrified vehicles and advancements in computer power, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things has enabled manufacturers to offer ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles’. Although the journey of connected vehicles has recently begun, with the 5G in place, new points of interface will emerge and offer new opportunities for the fast-emerging ecosystem of innovators.”
Nissan’s digital drive begins at home
Nissan India, like most carmakers, has curated the ecosystem to cater to customer needs digitally. According to Mohan Wilson, Director, Marketing, Nissan India, “We provide a range of connected services which matter most for our customers with NissanConnect and constantly monitor market trends for future additions of services to ensure customer-centricity. Nissan vehicles have various connected Car features via NissanConnect focused on safety, security, convenience, control, and vehicle health & status. All of our vehicles are equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well, further enhancing the customer driving experience.”
Jeep and Uconnect
Speaking about the tech on Jeep brand models in the Indian market, Nipun J. Mahajan, Head, Jeep Brand India, says: “Our infotainment system is the much-awarded Uconnect system. When it comes to connectivity and connected cars, there’s geo-fencing, remote access and more. Besides, it is only getting better and better with every product change that we do. Along with Heads-Up display, Passenger Screen display is a very exciting part of digitization that we are building up.”
Connecting with the future
With 5G now in India and the consumer demand only set to grow higher, vehicle manufacturers will be looking for ways to make their cars/computers on the move 5G-enabled. As technology and innovation keep pushing the connectivity envelope to new frontiers, the future drive for carmakers as well as car buyers is getting super exciting!