Most Drivers Aren't Dazzled Yet by Connected Cars

International New York Times

July 18, 2014

Many of the world's largest technology companies are pursuing the automotive sector as a new area for growth.

Yet while the likes of Apple and Google have introduced operating systems for cars, many people don't appear to be interested in downloading applications and keeping up to speed with their social networks while they drive, according to research by the Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica, which surveyed people in the United States, Britain, Germany, Spain and Brazil.

Instead, the company said, people are most interested in emergency alert systems and notices about maintenance for their cars. But Telefónica believes nonetheless that consumer expectations will move beyond that.

''The type of safety features will continue to expand,'' said Pavan Mathew, Telefónica's head of connected cars, which refers to vehicles that use sensors and Internet connections to communicate with the outside world. ''As the category grows, consumers' frame of reference of what services are available also will expand.''

As Western markets become saturated with high-end smartphones, device makers like Apple and Samsung have started looking for new areas of growth, including the health care and automotive sectors.

Yet while Google's demonstrations of driverless cars have captured the imagination of some motorists, many still do not have even a basic understanding of what constitutes a connected car, the report said. The lack of awareness could pose obstacles for tech companies looking to build on people's seemingly insatiable desire for the latest smartphone, application and wearable device, as companies try to establish a beachhead in the automotive industry.

''We've been building connected cars for years,'' said John Ellis, head of the developer program at Ford Motor, who contributed to Telefónica's report. ''People's buying decisions are becoming based on connectivity and entertainment.''

Privacy doesn't seem to be a top issue for many people. Almost half of the 6,000 people surveyed in Telefónica's study said that the safety and entertainment benefits offered by a connected car would outweigh any potential risk to their privacy. In a sign that people's concerns may be only skin deep, almost 40 percent of the people said they would be willing to share information about their driving style and location if they could get discounts on car insurance.

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