Kin Lee-Yow and the World of Wired Cars

In a spotlight on telematics, Kin Lee-Yow takes us into the world of wired cars, where new trends indicate that the auto industry will never be the same

Before you know it, we’re going to be driving big computers with wheels. I’ve never seen technology evolve and impact entire industries so quickly, but that’s exactly what we’re seeing in the automotive space right now. We’re in a connected and wireless world, and there’s no avoiding that. As technology influences automakers and impacts insurers, there are critical issues we have to think about, like privacy and security.

CAA South Central Ontario is more than one hundred years old, and we have almost two  million members. Everything we do relates to our members’ needs. We’re obsessed with member safety and with understanding how advances in technology and telematics will influence their lives for the better.

As for innovation and how automakers are integrating technology, I think it’s fairly obvious that one extreme is what Tesla is doing. In some ways, they’re more of a tech leader than an auto manufacturer, because their product is like a computer that motorists just happen to drive. But a lot of what we’re seeing is a series of small, simpler steps that companies are taking to address connectivity and that give users seemingly limitless information directly from their vehicle.

“With connected cars, the data is out there. It’s possible to know where someone drove when, how fast they went, and all the other facts of a trip. Who should own and access that data?”

Manufacturers like Ford and GM are introducing in-vehicle WiFi, and the whole concept of the Internet of Things is huge. Soon enough, you’ll be able to let people know your exact arrival time, and you’ll get there faster because your car will get traffic updates and reroute you in real time. You’ll arrive prepared, dressed for the right weather conditions, and you’ll know the health status of your car so you can get updates and schedule maintenance before issues arise.

Picture this: you’re about to enjoy an evening out, and you own a car that is on the network. As you’re on your way, you make a parking reservation close to the event you’ll be attending. Since the car knows your habits, it can suggest a spot where you’ll pick up coffee. When you arrive, the coffee will be paid for and waiting for you. The parking spot is also paid for. On the way home, you receive an on-dash message that it’s time for routine maintenance, and the system contacts your mechanic to schedule an appointment for you. You drive home, and when you pull up to your house, your security system is disarmed and your lights and temperature settings are engaged.

Expected value of the global telematics market in 2016, up from $15 billion in 2011
Potential reduction of accidents involving young motorists due to the use of telematics to encourage better driving, according to Insurethebox
Total number of monitored drivers expected to be on the road in the next two years, up from 1.85 million in 2010

While these changes are exciting, there are also some concerns out there. If your car is just a computer on the network, you have to be aware of security issues. What if you’re exposed, or someone takes over your vehicle, or you get hit by a virus? That’s something we have to keep a close eye on because the security features that we use today will soon be outdated. Automakers will have to solve this issue, and each one seems to have its own methods for doing so. It’s important that we strike the right balance and take a sensible approach to integrated technologies so drivers remain safe on the roads.

From a legislation standpoint, people are worried because the proper care of data and personal information must remain paramount. With connected cars, the data is out there. It’s possible to know where someone drove when, how fast they went, and all the other facts of a trip. Who should own and access that data? For us, it’s the driver, and the driver decides who they share the information with.

We believe the auto owner gets the data and not the manufacturer, the insurer, or another third party. At some point soon, there will have to be legislation to make this clear. Another legislative concern for us is on the issue of distracted driving. We need to ensure that connected technology in cars doesn’t impede the safe operation of vehicles and distract the driver from paying attention to what is happening on the road.

As this future continues to unfold, automakers will have to move out of the shadows, because they’ve historically wanted to keep their systems proprietary and hold everything close. But it’s time to collaborate across industries. If companies fail to take this strategy, customers will simply replace their factory onboard systems with smartphones. A better approach is a collaborative one through which the makers build portals that run original and third-party applications together. It’s hard, because these changes are coming fast, and car companies are used to a ten-year concept to production life cycle. They need to work closer with competitors and find ways to bring these innovations more quickly, because the future is happening now.