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It is Time for Cars to Get Smart

Indro works as a techno-commercial professional, who loves writing outside 9 to 5. He is an aspiring entrepreneur...


Setting Some Context

Over the last couple of decades technology has taken giant steps towards advancement. Smartphones and computers have more processing power than ever, and we have seen a whole new generation of smart IoT devices like smartwatches and home management systems. However, it is my belief that cars have not become as smart or as advanced as it should have been. When I say cars, I do not mean ultra-luxury cars like the ones by Rolls Royce or premium limited availability (in terms of countries) ones like the cars by Tesla. I am talking about the cars that are commonly used by the middle class. For example: a feature like accessing emails is possible in all smartphones today, costly and affordable, but the features I am going to talk about are far from being used in all cars today. I am writing about some of the features which I think should be essential, features which would have saved me a lot of hassles during my own painful experiences related to car troubles.


A Place to Keep Our Smartphone:

Most cars I have come across do not have a designated spot to keep our smartphones where the screen will be visible to the driver. For example: a place that holds the smartphone on the dashboard beside the steering wheel or AC vents, from where the screen is conveniently visible to the driver. Many cars do not come with built in Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or even basic GPS Navigation so the phone also shows the navigation using Google Maps. There should be an effective place to keep our phones and see the maps while driving without having to look away from the road ahead.


Changing Tyres:

While tyres have come a long way over the years, they are not completely prone to punctures. The way we need to change tyres has not evolved at all since the time cars have first entered into the market. The process of changing tyres is very tedious, it needs strength, and is not a seamless experience at all. Moreover, many people are not aware of the process and elderly drivers will find the process very difficult. There are safety issues as well – if we are driving through deserted roads on the highway and we get a flat tyre, stopping the car and changing tyres can be potentially unsafe. Either the process of changing tyres must evolve, or tyres need to become puncture prone for a hundred miles post puncture to give the driver an opportunity to find the nearest service center or gas station.

Car companies/dealerships should conduct mandatory training to their customers on the process of changing tyres. I also do not see a tyre pressure monitor on a lot of cars. A tyre pressure monitor helps the car owner take important decisions such as inflating the tyres at the nearest gas station or choose not to take the car out to begin with (example: you are on a rush and the nearest gas station is a big diversion from your destination).


Dash Cam:

Strict hit and run laws can ruin drivers' lives even if its not their fault as the other car on the highway is taking an illegal turn or a pedestrian suddenly appears on the crossing even though the traffic signal is green. Having video recordings with the help of a dash cam can be a lifesaving evidence to the cops or in front of the court if god forbid we find ourselves during such tough times. This can also help in getting damage claims from insurance during accidents, minor or major.


Alert Systems:

Suspicious activities such as unauthorized people spending too much time around the car, trying to damage or unlock the car should be alerted to the car owner through a notification on the phone (or smart car key). The car should also have an in-built GPS tracker for the owner to track the car in car in case it is towed or stolen. Also, whenever the driver is getting out of the car, and no one else is sitting inside, the following should happen automatically:

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  1. The mirrors should fold back
  2. All doors should get locked
  3. Headlights and any other lights should turn off (unless the car ignition is on)

Note: keeping the headlight on for 15-20 minutes without the ignition on will drain the battery and hence the car engine will have problems getting started.


Car Battery and Jump-start Cables:

The car owner needs to be aware of the car battery status, specially when the battery charge is lower than desired, or the battery needs replacing. This can be through either the smartphone or smart keys. It has been observed (especially during the lock down due to Covid) that if the car ignition is not turned on for 15-30 days the car engine does not start as the battery level get insufficient. This problem needs to be addressed. Either the car will periodically start the engine by itself, or the car owner will have the ability to turn on the engine remotely. There are scenarios where the car owner needs to be out of town, either for business trips, or family obligations/emergencies and he shouldn’t have to return and deal with the car battery.

A jump-start cable helps get the car engine started during similar scenarios, however I don’t see cars coming in with those cables when we buy them. A car should be equipped with jump start cables and car dealerships/car companies should have mandatory training with their customers to teach them how to jump start their cars during emergencies.

Note: during the Covid lock down, people working from home, who didn't start their car engines once in a couple of weeks, experienced battery issues (myself included).


Better and More Effective Car Servicing:

In the age of internet and connected services, car servicing needs to improve. Helpful insights such as engine or brake oil change, battery heath, coolant, servicing deadlines should be effectively available to the car owner. In case the driver finds himself/herself stranded in the middle of the highway or in places with poor network connectivity during late night, getting the car fixed can be very challenging. The built-in car tech should be sophisticated enough to automatically notify the nearest service center in the event of car trouble so that the center can send help immediately.


To Sum Up, a Note to Car makers:

The future cars need to be smarter, not just faster. To some of us, driving is a passion. But to all of us, driving a car is a necessity for commute, a convenience, a time saver and a saviour during emergencies. While top speeds, higher capacity engines and acceleration can fascinate a bunch of car enthusiasts, it’s important to address the needs of every driver and to make driving safe, seamless and completely hassle-free experience by leveraging modern technology. Car makers should focus on these points, look to integrate at least some of these features and use it to sell to customers on the value that these features add to the customer. After all, a car is not just made for car enthusiasts – its also for the millions of other people to whom a it solves the problem of commute.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Indro Neel

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