• Pixelated People

Future Thinking: Cars & Tech Over The Next 10 Years


We had a facinating chat with Chris Tingley, CTO of Conjure about tech innovation within the car industry, the increased amount of cross over with IoT, Smart Cities and V2X as well as our thoughts on the BYOD revolution, customer loyalty and data security. We recorded it as our first Podcast which you can listen to on the link below or feel free to read the transcript if you left your ear phones at home!


https://anchor.fm/pixelated-people/episodes/Future-Thinking-Cars--Tech-over-the-next-10-Years-e3a5j6/a-aat93p


Paul Shone:

Hello, welcome to our first podcast. I'm really excited to be here today with Chris Tingley who's CTO over at Conjure. I'll pass you over to him to tell you a little bit more about them and what they do.


Chris Tingley:

Yes I'm Chris Tingley, I'm the CTO at Conjure. We're an interface and innovation agency specialising in the automotive space which I think is why Paul has asked me to collaborate on this podcast.


Paul Shone:

Yes, I mean, it would probably help if I introduced myself as well. My name's Paul Shone, I'm the co-founder and director of Pixelated People and we're also an interface and technology recruitment agency, you know, we've taken a particular interest in the automotive sector because it seems to be one that is undergoing an exciting amount of digital transformation. Also I studied transport and product design when I was at university and I've always taken an interest in this sector and working in technology now it seems to pair up nicely. So I think, you know, we've put together a number of points that we've brainstormed on over the last couple of weeks which we hope would make an interesting conversation around how technology and the automotive industry are going to work together. I think the focus of the conversation is going to be on the immediate to mid-term technologies. You know, there's a lot of conversation around the future of automotive and in five years time we're going to be flying around in cars that will never touch the ground and live in the space age but I think realistically we're probably ten years away even from fully autonomous vehicles so between now and then there's going to be a huge amount of innovation that will fill the gap and help us move towards that step and there's a big role to play for mobile technology, for innovation within what the car companies are doing themselves and also third party companies to try and progress us to that point. Chris is very heavily involved in this sector and somebody that has got a huge insight into the latest progressions and the stuff even coming up in the future so I thought he'd be a great person to talk to.


Chris Tingley:

Yes thanks very much but yes I think-,


Paul Shone:

Nice little big up there (laughter).


Chris Tingley:

I think you're right, there's a great opportunity right now in that digital transformation space because of the ease to integrate services and different kind of products and different business models and what I've seen is there are a lot of, obviously start up, companies that are developing innovative solutions to solve some of the problems that the OEMs want to solve. Obviously the difficulty from the OEMs point of view is they're often quite old very large organisations who admittedly are doing a lot of digital transformation and have got really capable digital teams now but still in terms of their whole organisation that's still something that's relatively new to them when you consider they've been going for decades and you've got start ups that have maybe only been going for a couple of years and that's all they know so I think that's where the opportunity but also some of the difficulty for the OEMs lie.


Paul Shone:

Yes absolutely. It seems to be an interesting transition time where I think it's fair to say that all companies need to be tech companies these days and I suppose car companies have always been tech companies to a certain extent but now this is digital technology and their focus has been solely on developing their product which has been the car for the last 100 or so years and now they need-,


Chris Tingley:

Yes when the petrol engine came out that was high tech.


Paul Shone:

Well yes absolutely and even before that the steam engine right? But obviously there's an opportunity now to realise that the car is just a small part of a much bigger digital infrastructure and ecosystem and it would be interesting to discuss how you see car companies adapting their approach to this broader view and what services you see them creating to support this change.


Chris Tingley:

Yes so the big focus that we see is on maintaining a relationship with the customer, that brand loyalty piece and from the OEMs point of view it's that lifetime customer value, that's what they want. When you buy a car from a dealership that dealership wants you to use their service organisation to do your servicing, you know, they might have valet services, they might have additional digital or real life services they want to add on to you as a customer to increase the value of you to them and then also offer products and services that are going to have you more bought into their ecosystem as well so you become a more loyal customer for that particular brand. When we think of digital transformation as an agency often we're brought in on a specific project or with a specific project in mind but for us we're always thinking a bit more holistically as where does that fit into the bigger picture? I don't think those car companies yet have got to a point where they are actually thinking holistically from that pre-sales, during sales, post sale and digital customer experience really all the way through until they sell that car or it stops working. I don't think they've got that complete view yet because one of the challenges we see is when we're working with OEMs we're often working with an engineering team, you know, an electronics division who are developing screens or other forms of interface in the vehicle and they're completely different solutions and not necessarily joined up with their sales and marketing teams who have different budgets and they're creating mobile apps and websites and all other forms of digital properties which are not necessarily connected to the ones that we're developing. That's a frustration for us because we'd love to be involved in the bigger picture and we'd love to do some of that strategic thinking along with other departments within that organisation.


Paul Shone:

Yes I think good design in terms of these types of products should flow all the way through from the marketing division so you can see how that works now with the current product offerings but, you know, I guess you do see more and more certainly through watching car TV adverts. There seems to be a shift in their approach to advertising, you know, they're talking-, even BMW recently have changed their stance from the ultimate driving machine to more to do with the bigger picture which is, as we mentioned before, this ecosystem thing. It's also interesting to think at the moment there seems to be quite a lot of work being done on bring your own device within vehicles and integrating people's current technology like mobile devices, tablets, all that kind of stuff which I guess is collecting data on them, they're using it for navigation purposes outside of the car, you know, all sorts of reasons, music, entertainment but as we move towards automation there seems to be a pretty widespread capability within infotainment systems and vehicle monitoring via apps but what other innovations do you see coming using our mobile devices or maybe helping to get rid of the need for integration with mobile devices that would be of interest not just to us as a consumer but create value for the OEMs and also, I guess, potentially the mobile device manufacturers as well?


Chris Tingley:

Yes, I mean, it's been quite interesting to watch that up until now, you know, obviously we've got mobile operating system providers putting their capabilities into vehicles, we've got Android Auto and CarPlay from Apple and I think that before those came along you had OEMs that were building their own systems of integration but I think what they've then seen is there's a massive demand from consumers to support the systems they already use and know and often that can provide a better experience to the consumer anyway. So I definitely think those platforms are going to win in this platform war between the OEM and the OS providers but I think what we'll see is that will start to get-, what that encompasses will get bigger. (TC 00:10:00) So I know that you wanted to focus on near to mid term but drifting into the long term-,


Paul Shone:

Alright I'll let you get away with that this once (laughter).


Chris Tingley:

You know, when we do have full autonomy and you're not driving and you're doing other stuff in that vehicle you are going to want to have the platform that you're used to using. You're on a Windows PC you're going to want to have all your Windows software there, you're going to want it seamlessly integrate and transition from your desktop to your car back to the plane you step on or whatever that's going to be and same for Apple users or whatever it might be. You're going to want to have that consistent platform and going, again a bit off topic, but that's a real worry for the OEMs because it takes them outside of their ecosystem. If you're an Apple customer and it's your Apple experience that's moving from your desktop to your phone into your vehicle, you're kind of an Apple customer at that point and the car is just a metal box around you moving you around so that's a real worry for the OEMs because they want to own that customer and own that customer experience but what the customer is demanding is that familiarity of the systems that they're used to using so that's a real conflict there.


Paul Shone:

It's an interesting insight and I'm sure that everyone that's interested in technology has seen that it's been heavily rumoured that Apple were developing a car or developing a more advanced system to go into a car than what they've got already. Google certainly have been heavily headlined talking about autonomous vehicles and it sounds like they're smelling blood to a certain extent. Then I guess vehicles are something that also have a very strong brand loyalty too and whilst you get your crazy fanatical Apple and Android users you also get people that are highly emotionally attached to vehicles, a particular brand that they love, you know, I fall into that category, I'm a big car guy and I've had a couple of BMWs and I absolutely love them. So I suppose there will still be space for both, how that works is I suppose up for discussion but I think from the insight that you've just given it seems that the OEMs are going to have to concede some ground and also have some kind of way that people can integrate what they want to integrate, you know, bring your own device as we've mentioned but how that will work moving forward is going to be interesting. I think also there's another thing that I was reading about which is called V2X which is vehicle to everything and how a vehicle will interact with the outside world based on the data that is fed. If you're talking about people walking down the street using a mobile device to help them navigate then if that car is anonymously connected to the wider world and connected to everything could it almost predict that a pedestrian is about to step out into the world because of where they've placed them on a GPS map and where they're currently walking to.


Chris Tingley:

Yes that's definitely the vision and you start to move into the smart city concept there and I think that is the vision for these people that actually it doesn't matter what's working out where that pedestrian is, you know, is it a sensor in a lamp post that knows there's a pedestrian by it if that lamp post can talk to the car? So there's definitely going to be this-, I mean, it will be super hard to get to this homogenised system but I think that's a dream for a lot of people.


Paul Shone:

We're definitely luring into the future now.


Chris Tingley:

Yes too much future, reign it back.


Paul Shone:

Yes, slapping our own wrists. So obviously there's a huge amount of digital innovation going on within the automotive industry and we've touched on a couple of those already but it would be interesting to know maybe one or two trends that you see from your insider knowledge that you think might be interesting to talk about or something that you guys are excited to be working on?


Chris Tingley:

Yes. I'm just having a quick look through my notes now, (laughter) (inaudible 14.30) to talk about there. Yes well related to the last point I think one of the innovations and trends we're seeing is around the data, you know, there's more and more things creating data, what will that lead to, what can you do with it? Definitely the OEMs and the tier ones that we work with are interested in doing things with that data and the issue with that obviously as consumers we're getting a lot more savvy around data protection and what's collecting that date? Where's it stored? How secure is it? Who gets to use it? I honestly think that done in a moral way using that data to improve our customer experiences is a good thing. I think that we as consumers should be willing to embrace that so long as we have a level of believe that that date is being stored securely. So definitely a more data driven approach to the types of products and services that we're getting asked to work on. I think that seems to be a trend. We're an interface agency so we're a bit biased in the fact that we're seeing more types of interface. Obviously there's been a massive rise of voice services over the last couple of years, they've got to a point now where-, you know, I remember voice services when they first came out in cars and they had no idea what you were talking about.


Paul Shone:

(Laughter) I think everyone remembers that.


Chris Tingley:

But now it's really really good and they're getting clever and they're being able to understand context and follow on conversations. So different types of interface, we're seeing gesture control as well, kind of, mid air gestures. A lot of what I saw at CES was around understanding what the driver or the other passengers happen to be doing or how they're feeling at that time as well. So changing the experience that customer is having based on non discrete inputs, so not pressing buttons or whatever but the system is working out that they're stressed or they're tired or whatever it might be. So I think those are some of the innovation areas that I've seen recently. The emotional aspect to it was really big actually at CES, I didn't expect to see-,


Paul Shone:

That's interesting.


Chris Tingley:

Yes a lot of people had demos in that kind of area. I knew that there was a lot of computer vision stuff and hardware innovations that were able to capture that information but it was really a theme I think this year.


Paul Shone:

Yes I think it's an interesting point to raise, you know, going back to the point that you made earlier about brand loyalty and how car companies and OEMs are going to continue to maintain their customer base but I think humanising the experience and creating the best experience within an autonomous vehicle or a connected vehicle is one way to do that. If you're putting someone into what will initially be an alien environment which is a car that you don't have to drive, you know, that seems right now a pretty scary thought to be driving down the road and not have any control at all. So how do you normalise that setting? How do you make somebody feel comfortable and familiar and safe? If you can do all of those things through these emotive channels that you've mentioned then that could be a really strong way to get people's buy in because we're emotive creatures so that strikes a chord with me.


Chris Tingley:

It does and that is part of our process. Even if we're just developing a graphical interface that's on a screen even if that screen is not interactive one of the things that we think about is what is that emotive connection to that design and that's just as much a part of understanding what the brand is trying to achieve, what type of vehicle that is, you know, if it's a sports vehicle you want a different connection with that vehicle than if it's a saloon or a grand tourer or something like that and that's starting to go into some of the work we're doing with virtual and personal assistance. There's some manifestation of an assistant, similar to the squiggly line you get with Siri or the blue halo that you get with Alexa, how do you start to humanise that interaction between what is effectively a virtual thing that doesn't really exist? One of the discussions that we were having the other day was actually what's the perceived age of that interface as well? So we were talking about if that personification of (TC 00:20:00) that assistant was an old wise assistant and it did something that was wrong you'd kind of be a bit annoyed because you'd be like 'Well you're old enough and wise enough to know better.' and then we were contrasting that to well what if it was childish and innocent in it's manifestation? You'd, kind of, forgive it, you'd be like 'Aww (ph 20.19) it doesn't matter. You kind of got it wrong but it's okay because it didn't know better.' so the way that you create that emotional connection to the machine is becoming super important to how brands are thinking about their interfaces.


Paul Shone:

It could be a data led thing as well, you know, I guess if you had a number of different personas, a number of different characters within that system's capability and based on the connection between that person and the vehicle be it through a device or it scans their-, if we're talking about a fully integrated network it could be scanning their Facebook profile to see who their friends are, what they like to do, all that kind of stuff and it would automatically select the right kind of profile and persona for that particular person. That could be really powerful too.


Chris Tingley:

Yes absolutely.


Paul Shone:

So many exciting things to think about, who knows? There's also other things that I've thought about as well like when you talk about the human aspect integrating digital technology into vehicles and even down to how Uber works is an example. As a use case you could say what if I walk out of a nightclub and I look down and my mobile phone's dead but I need to get a taxi, I haven't got any phone numbers, how could an autonomous vehicle help in that situation? Because at the moment we use our apps to book the cabs for them to find us, all that kind of thing but could an autonomous vehicle also have the traditional aspect built into it where you'd raise your hand in the street as an empty one drives past and it recognises you and the gesture and maybe even your face and could then pull up all sorts of information or perhaps you could-, obviously it would listen to voice commands as well so when you get into the car you'd tell it who you are, it's able to look you up on a database and then can take you and still charge you from your card.


Chris Tingley:

Yes it's got your payment details associated with you.


Paul Shone:

Again, these are ingrained behaviours that we use at the moment, you know, sticking your hand up for a cab is second nature and obviously we've moved more towards these services but it could be interesting to think about ways in which we can still keep traditional life but also make that useful.


Chris Tingley:

That's a super interesting part of design thinking about how people interact with stuff and of course it completely depends on age, you know, would a teenager now who's never used a black cab know how to hail one? Would they know to make that action to wave it down? Maybe, maybe not, I don't know.


Paul Shone:

Bloody kids (laughter).


Chris Tingley:

It's nice to build that stuff into the sort of things that we do, it gives us a sense of comfort and familiarity and a hark back to the old days, you know, that's cool.


Paul Shone:

Yes it is cool and I think having nostalgic elements to design. Again, back to that brand loyalty thing, I think people see value in the thought process that's gone into creating products and if it's been really well thought out and considerate to as broad a range of the population as it can be, so be that the young kids who may never have hailed a cab to the old fogies like us who remember those days before Uber. I think they could create value just through that alone. The other thing that I wanted to talk about was safety and security because there's been a lot in the press about this recently as we move into an IoT based technology world and the question of security keeps being raised particularly in the automotive space as they're some of the most valuable products we buy and potentially the most dangerous as well. Thefts and hacks have already been an issue so how do you see this being tackled moving forwards?


Chris Tingley:

Well, I mean, it's related again to what we were talking about earlier where automotive companies are having to become software companies and they're having to hire in that skill set. So probably what you're seeing from a recruitment point of view is experts in certain areas like security, like data security and things like that, which are now-, didn't have jobs in the automotive world and now do. You're seeing this transition of expertise from certain areas move into the automotive sector and I think the hacks and stuff like that have been-, I don't think it's necessarily the OEMs not knowing what they're doing or being negligent per se but they've tried to be innovating really quickly. The customer demand for those kinds of services and them trying to stay on top of their competition when they're now competing against companies that are software companies, okay maybe they've never built a car before and that's got it's own challenges associated with it but yes they're having to compete against that and they're having to iterate on this stuff really quickly and there's just gaps in how they're doing it but I think what's good to see now is a bit of a reset button has been pressed on that, they realise it's super important. Their customers are having their car stolen and it's not their fault, that's not good for brand loyalty, again coming back to that. So I think that-,


Paul Shone:

Oh for sure, we've all seen those videos on YouTube of people holding up antennas outside someone's front door and jumping in the car, it's pretty scary.


Chris Tingley:

Yes and I've got an eBay shop of those (laughter).


Paul Shone:

A man on the inside (laughter).


Chris Tingley:

So that stuff I think has scared the OEMs into doing something about that.


Paul Shone:

Yes it's certainly something that needs to be paid very close attention. Hacking a vehicle that's driving itself sounds incredibly-,


Chris Tingley:

Yes that's bad news.


Paul Shone:

It sounds incredibly scary so we hope that these guys are going to put some serious thought into that. I think as I mentioned before the reason I wanted to speak about the more short term, medium term technology innovation is because realistically we're still ten years away from automation. Not only is the trust and technology not quite there yet you're talking about complete automation and that means a vehicle that can not only drive itself within a city but maybe outside of a city where the parameters are different, maybe off road. There's all sorts of things that need to be considered going into full automation. Also a whole load of legal and massive infrastructure change which as we know takes a huge amount of time and expense and is not the easiest thing to work with.


Chris Tingley:

Yes and it goes back to that smart city thing, you know, can we have autonomous vehicles that don't have integration with the wider infrastructure? I think the belief is that that has to exist because there will be a transition where you've got autonomous vehicles being driven on the same roads as people driving as well. Okay, maybe they'll have separate lanes, we don't know how that legislation is going to pan out but nevertheless they are co-existing so they've got to have mechanisms, integration and technology in place to allow them to co-exist.


Paul Shone:

Well look it's been a really fascinating conversation and my mind is racing at a hundred miles an hour with a million different ideas and maybe I should come and apply for a job at Conjure because you guys are doing some really exciting stuff and it's a pleasure to talk with you and thanks for your time.


Chris Tingley:

Yes, thank you, Paul.

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