Four connected car wishes prompted by my first Uber ride

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I took my first Uber ride recently. I was with a colleague and we were going into the office before dawn to finish a presentation we were making later that morning.

Red line tachometerAs our Uber driver accelerated to merge onto the interstate, we heard a high-pitched whine and smelled hot metal coming from beneath the floorboard of our SUV. When I leaned forward to look at the instrument panel, I saw the vehicle was running between 5500-6000 RPMs. Yet our driver wasn’t even going 55 miles per hour. It was obvious the SUV wasn’t shifting into high gear.

Our driver pulled over to the shoulder just ahead of an exit. We were only minutes away from being engulfed in the morning rush hour, and we weren’t even close to the office yet. I was getting anxious, but the young driver calmly said, “I’m going to turn off the truck to reset it.” (You know, like she was rebooting a laptop computer.)

Off went the ignition, then we waited in the dark for a few tortuous seconds. In those moments I was wishing:

  1. That our sudden exit would prompt a kind voice to call out in our SUV cockpit asking, “Do you need help? We noticed you’ve turned off the vehicle in a highly atypical location.”
  2. For a notification on my smart phone to appear showing me names, phone numbers and the hours of local dealerships or repair facilities.
  3. That our driver had heeded warnings two weeks earlier saying, “You should get your transmission checked. It’s throwing three times the amount of normal fault codes per second.”
  4. For a corrective action recommendation: “It appears you can’t shift into 3rd or higher gear. We suggest you avoid highways. Here is an alternate route that takes surface roads which also brings you by this repair facility.”

Dare to dream about vehicles that operate how and when you want

My wishes represent emerging automotive realities. They illustrate the connected car customer experience the auto industry aspires to build. But making sense of the volumes of streaming data generated by a connected car in real time requires high-performance analytics. Without analytics, all that data is just meaningless noise.

Everyone wants consumers to be safe driving any vehicle. And, all drivers appreciate that routine preventative maintenance like scheduled oil changes and tire rotations are part of the vehicle safety equation. But the analytical horsepower that runs in the background of most vehicles driving on the road today goes unacknowledged.

Manufacturer-generated messages to drivers don’t magically appear. Much like a bank notifies a customer about unusual credit card activity, auto makers use diagnostics and complex statistics to detect when something isn’t right. Furthermore, useful notifications triggering call centers to contact the driver and alert them of anticipated and actual problems along with prescriptive remedies is a big deal to the overall customer experience. Receiving such helpful and relevant advice may be the deciding factor influencing the owner to choose that brand again when they buy another vehicle.

The way technology is shaping up, auto owners can be informed of good and not-so-good news about the condition of their vehicle whether they’re in it or not. Imagine the following: Think your teenager is driving your car recklessly? Here comes a text message letting you know the details about the speed and location of your car. Forget about your car’s annual checkup? A diagnostic check that just ran on your car’s computer triggers a message to you about calling your dealer for an appointment. Don’t even want to own a car – just want to borrow one from time to time? Check out General Motors’ Maven car-sharing model. Want tighter steering or ride suspension in the car you already own? You can get it through the next firmware update you receive for the software that controls your car.

Analytics power these disruptive, yet progressive business models for auto makers. Advanced and predictive analytics that prescribe recommendations based on immense volumes of real-time, vehicle sensor data allow drivers to be safer, auto companies to realize new streams of revenue, and consumers to have enhanced experiences.

By the way, my colleague and I arrived safely – and on time – at our office. We strongly encouraged our Uber driver to have her transmission checked out immediately, and it left us both wishing for a more connected world a little bit sooner. I’ve gotta believe the auto industry is wishing the same thing.

Image source: Mik Salac

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About Author

Lonnie Miller

Principal Industry Consultant

Lonnie Miller is an Industry Principal for the automotive & manufacturing sector at SAS. He focuses on market opportunities and risks with emerging technology and competitive market dynamics in the auto industry while advising how to leverage analytical approaches to improve connected vehicle, smart mobility and customer experience strategies. Prior to joining SAS, Lonnie held a variety of senior leadership roles with R. L. Polk & Co. (now IHS Markit). This included leading the company’s Loyalty Management Practice, their Marketing and Industry Analysis unit and the company’s Analytical Solutions team. Lonnie holds a B.B.A. in Marketing from The University of Michigan-Flint and a M.A. in Advertising from Michigan State University. You can find him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lonniemiller.

2 Comments

  1. Thomas Billings on

    Car sharing is not new - ZipCar has been around for about 10 years, and it now has many competitors, both for-profit and non-profit. It is great for those of us who have limited need for a car. Rent a car for a few hours each month and avoid the taxes, insurance, parking hassles, and other costs associated with car ownership.

    • Brandy Mann
      Lonnie Miller on

      Absolutely agree, Thomas. ZipCar's certainly made this service available. Yet isn't it interesting the OEMs really want a piece of this action, too? What new sources of revenue does it imply for a car company?

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