Why driving needs to become more sharable

The Hotwire Digital Trends paper is a great thing. This year, a number of insights came out and one that caught my eye (from a personal interest perspective) was number ten: Automotive App Stores.

SMMT figures show that new UK car registration forecasts have been revised down this year to 1.92 million – 20,000 less than 2011. Whilst the sluggish economic climate is the core reason, I believe that car manufacturers will need to find new way of attracting customers and enticing them to upgrade to new models. Fundamentally, a brand new Ford Fiesta carries out exactly the same function as a 10 year old Ford Fiesta – it transports you from A-to-B – but draping new models in technology such as Bluetooth stereos, parking sensors and keyless entry systems is to attract a customer to upgrade.

So what can be done to make cars more ‘social’?

The real winner is going to be the brand that can look at the driving experience and find ways of making it sharable. Sitting in the driving seat is the one place I believe that I stop being social online, however I believe there is great scope for digital to improve the driving experience. Also it is worth bearing in mind that most people sit in their cars and are aware of the destination they wish to reach. Where social really comes into its element is where it can delight/surprise and provide you with places and experiences you may not have had otherwise. Think about that time you found a great coffee shop through Foursquare, or you saw that your friend had checked in nearby on Facebook and went over to say hello. This is fantastic for city dwellers who can achieve this on foot or using public transport, but what about when you’re on holiday in the countryside with no transportation but a car?

Some examples of where I see areas for innovation:

Combining Foursquare and Satellite Navigation

TomTom has a pleasant ecosystem providing maps and quirky voice guidance, however real value could be added in combining location-based services like Foursquare. Looking for a new restaurant nearby? Why not look somewhere up on Foursquare on your dashboard, browse tips and recommendations, and automatically navigate yourself there? Not quite sure? What if you could dial the friend that recommended it to make sure it’s worth a trip and spending your hard earned petrol money?

Real-time traffic updates via Twitter

TomTom and the Department for Transport already provide fantastic live traffic updates, however what if this could be combined with photos? For example, you are stuck in a traffic jam, and the camera mounted behind your rear-view mirror snaps it, posts it to Twitter, and those heading into the same area see this pop up on their dash? As we’re seeing with the boom of Pinterest and Instagram, users respond and enjoy working with photos and this trend will continue. Why not apply it to the driving experience? What we will then see is that alongside live traffic cameras, user generated content providing a better view of what’s happening on the roads. Great for when snow grips the nation.

Spotify on wheels

One part of the car driving experience that I think holds true for many people is the ability to listen to music. A Google search for “driving music” brings up over 30 million results, and why is it still that many of us are confined to tape adapters, CD players and radio stations? Sure, you can dock your iPod in the car, or load up onto an internal hard drive, but what if you want to explore new music on the go? With the right technology, your car could have the capability to know the terrain you’re driving on, the speed you’re going and the climate you’re in. Combining this with a database, perhaps it could play you the perfect driving music to suit your mood?

These are just some suggestions – they are by no means exhaustive – however I for one am extremely excited to see what the next 1-3 years brings for the automotive industry. Alongside lower emissions and better designs, technology is the one area I think real strides should be made.

What’s exciting, is that if car manufacturers can get this right, they’ll open up the younger market buyers (such as myself) who have started to lose the allure and status that car ownership brought our parents.

What do you think?

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