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What automotive manufacturers need to know about smart product technology and its cost saving benefits

More than 100 years ago, Henry Ford changed the world by making personal transportation affordable to the masses. His vision was to build a car large enough for a family, but small and simple enough for a single person to run and maintain.  Today, there is a new vision for the future of automotive transportation.  A vision in which vehicles communicate with each other, drive themselves and are fixed before they breakdown.

The idea that vehicle-to-vehicle communications could prevent as much as 80% of traffic fatalities each year is a strong driving force behind the development of smart car technology. Indeed, adding sensors to automotive parts, which can convey and receive data from other vehicles, has far reaching safety benefits. Another less obvious, but just as crucial application is the information transmitted to manufacturers while the vehicle is in operation.  Insight into the automobile opens up huge opportunities for higher-quality designs, improved profitability and a better overall user experience.


The Value of Automotive Analytics for ManufacturingTerabytes of data is literally streaming from automobiles, with more being produced every second. Until recently, inadequate processing capacity limited a manufacturer’s ability to capture and analyze the information.  However, companies with new, high-speed platforms are uncovering uses for data that have far-reaching implications the industry is just now beginning to understand. Below are a few examples of how automotive analytics will transform the future of manufacturing.

Proactive MaintenanceThe existing system for car repairs can take many weeks or even months for a design problem to reach the manufacturer.  Take, for example, a door window that stops moving up. The problem is not critical as the car still functions; therefore the owner takes a week to come into a dealership. Once the problem is fixed, the dealer then may take a week to file a warranty claim, which is paid in the manufacturer’s next payment cycle. Unfortunately, during this time more cars have been produced with same problem, resulting in more future warranty claims.


Futuristic Applications of Automotive AnalyticsAs mentioned earlier, the most commonly discussed vision for using smart automobile data is crash avoidance. At a high level, information technology would give cars the ability to warn drivers of potential dangers, initiate braking or adjust headlines. The value of cars, not drivers, preventing accidents is appropriately summed up in a statement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “I don’t think you can understate the significance of having vehicles that are smart enough to recognize that an accident is about to happen and can step in to stop it,” said Foxx. “This is just the beginning of a revolution in roadway safety” (LA Times, 2/3/2014). However, before this goal can become a reality, standards for how to transmit, receive and interrupt vehicle data must be established.

Many people believe driverless automobiles will be the ultimate result of smart product technology.  Autonomous cars will tap into knowledge centers to access digital maps, while sensors allow it to maintain speed limits, avoid obstacles and manage other driver functions.  One question that has yet to be answered, however, is what happens when the car malfunctions.  Inattentive drivers most likely will not be able to assess a situation quickly enough to react appropriately.  The answer is to include redundant systems as a failsafe feature, which is extremely expensive.

A third way possible application for smart car data is to encourage specific actions from vehicle operators. Companies are looking at ways to increase their share of wallet by influencing consumer behavior through a smart car. For example, smart cars could direct drivers to a particular gas station or parking lot where the manufacturer has revenue-sharing agreements with the affiliated partner.

In conclusion, automotive analytics undoubtedly is opening up a world of opportunity for manufacturers and drivers. However, the value of the data lies in what can be learned from the car and how that knowledge can be applied to improve the end-user experience. Only in this way will the automotive industry be able to uncover the true potential of smart product technology. 

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