In-cabin experience—not range—to differentiate future EVs

Flip through any car magazine or blog and range is typically shown as a defining factor in whether or not an electric vehicle (EV) is recommendable compared to its peers. Range, or lack of it, is regularly claimed as one of the biggest barriers to widespread EV adoption. It’s a preoccupation for automotive brands which are in a constant battle to prove whose car can “go the furthest.”

This is to oversimplify the issue, as range will not be the only factor swaying a person’s decision to switch to an EV. Given EVs are still an expensive purchase, the overall mobility experience with respect to the in-cabin environment and driving safety will also be key influencing factors. Fundamentally, it’s not about just providing a vehicle for someone to get from A to B anymore, but the holistic driving experience, inside and out.

For instance, a poll from found that 70% of millennials consider cutting-edge, interactive cabin technology a ‘must-have feature’ when purchasing a new car. Voice, touch, haptics and gesture are becoming the main modality of interaction with the car, over traditional buttons and knobs. As such, they want a more immersive and personalised cabin environment, filled with high-definition displays, infotainment features, high-fidelity audio, voice-based functionalities and more.

Many buyers are looking for cutting-edge, interactive cabin technology

Indeed, for the contemporary car-buyer, apps, user interface, and audio and video features are now just as important as driving dynamics, design, and comfort—the features that car makers have traditionally drawn on to sell their models.

Here, authenticity will be crucial as consumers become increasing tech-savvy, and it becomes a greater purchasing influencer. The automotive, in-cabin experience will need to be a truly—not just superficially—digital one. The software environment in the vehicle must enable people to make a seamless transition from their home or office to their vehicle while enjoying the same immersive entertainment options, productivity tools, and communication options everywhere. Those who fail to deliver this will soon be found out.

That’s not all: with evolving trends in urban mobility, the rise of EV fleets and ride-shares, technologies such as autonomous driving and ADAS are also taking centre stage. This is leading to more sensors, more data, more computation and the rise of the software-defined vehicles that are capable of delivering incremental value to the car owner and occupants.

What’s exciting is this shift towards holistically digital automobiles is leading to an expansion of the traditional value chain. It’s making it possible for new entrants to deliver disruptive systems and services in the vehicle environment, such as third-party apps similar to mobile phones. The digital cabin is thus enabling the rise of a powerful multi-sided platform.

There’s a massive commercial opportunity for established players too. It’s estimated that by the end of this decade, the software-defined vehicle will generate almost 200Gbps of data and the cars of the future will be incredibly powerful computer systems on wheels. These cars will demand real-time computing and decision-making on a scale previously unseen from any other consumer product.

However, that’s not to say there won’t be challenges. The amount of data required by tomorrow’s car is measured in exabytes and will generate crippling demand across V2X communication networks. Fortunately, the solution is at hand, with edge processing providing the answer by bringing computing power closer to where the data is generated, allowing for faster processing and reduced latency, improving security and privacy. The intelligent edge is particularly relevant for automotive connectivity, in addition to electrification.

It’s not about just providing a vehicle for someone to get from A to B anymore, but the holistic driving experience, inside and out

However, as technology evolves at pace, automakers cannot sacrifice driver safety in the pursuit of innovative technology. They will need to be able to demonstrate their vehicle is the safest on the market, focusing on enabling vehicles that augment sensory awareness to enhance transportation safety, reduce driving distractions, fatigue and road fatalities.

This relates to the operability of safety functions as much as the tasks they perform. For example: it’s well known that cameras are a safety device, to provide the driver with information about objects or people that are located around the vehicle. However, real-time video data connectivity is required to display information from cameras to the driver. You don’t want your backup camera display to turn off, or deliver lagged-imagery, when you put the car in reverse. So ensuring this link operates reliably all the time is essential to reduce driver liability and increase public safety. It’s a small but vital element to ensure safe driving, and something manufacturers need to consider as an essential, not just a nice to have.

Milage is important but we have to think beyond that with cars. Automakers need to enable fantastic experiences that endure, so that their model, and therefore brand, become mainstays in that person’s life for the long term. Suppliers that combine digitisation and personalisation for an immersive yet safe vehicle will break away from the pack, with those averse to innovation having lost the race.

About the author: Yasmine King is Vice President, Automotive Cabin Experience at Analog Devices

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