Putting Vehicle Data at the Heart of R&D to Enhance Customer Experience
Monica McDonnell, Automotive Industry Consultant at Teradata
Vehicle data also provides important and valuable insights across the whole of the customer lifecycle. It is fundamental to diagnostics and servicing, but it can also illuminate driver and passenger behaviours that can inform future updates and upgrades to existing vehicles, as well as longer term research and development trends.
Improving customer experience over time
Today, thanks to digitalisation and the ability to update software, apps and functionality, people expect many of the products they buy to improve over time. Smartphones, computers and many other consumer electronic devices receive regular updates to fix bugs and add new capabilities. The modern connected vehicle can also be updated in the same way, and increasingly drivers and their passengers expect new functionality, performance tweaks and improved experiences as part of their ownership. This presents automotive businesses with challenges and opportunities. They can constantly evolve the customer experience, engaging and delighting customers by regular vehicle improvements. But they also need to focus their R&D spend on solving real problems and offering the capabilities that will have the broadest appeal to their customer base.
Learning from gaming
The world of massively multiplayer online gaming provides and unexpected but illuminating model. It shows how automotive companies can meet these challenges and unearth and capitalise on new customer experience opportunities. For example, a publisher of a popular online game tracks the gameplay of every participant in minute detail. From this granular detail it can understand the behaviour of individual players, which aspects of the game are most popular, where players prefer to congregate, what items and abilities they prefer to use.
Not only does this information help the publisher match players with similar skill levels to ensure all have enjoyable gameplay, but it can understand which areas of the game to develop further to keep players playing.
The same approach can be used with data from connected cars. Infotainment, comfort and driving style features can be scored by their level of interaction. Decisions can be made about those falling towards the bottom of the scale. Why are they not used? Is it because they don’t fit the needs of customers; are they not aware of them; or perhaps they don’t work as intended? Did they try them and find the experience less than satisfactory, or not sufficiently engaging to return? In future many of the apps available in connected cars may be 3rd party products, but the experience of using them still reflects on the brand. So, it is important to collect evidence to understand when and how apps or features are not living up to expectations. With this evidence OEMs and developers can gain insight to drive decisions on the future of their apps.
Improve, promote or remove
Using vehicle data, R&D teams can make informed decisions on where to invest. Should under-utilised features be improved, better promoted, or simply dropped? Matched with customer data, and 3rd party information ranging from time of day to weather, these insights can help make sense of the growing numbers of features that can be modified after purchase. All of this may need to be done on a per-market basis to reflect the differing behaviours of drivers in different market segments.
Some analytics companies are already working with automotive OEMS to analyse vehicle data to understand quality problems. If certain features have high volumes of fault reporting, or rapid increases in rate of reports, they can be alerted to quickly identify root causes and prioritise resources to find fixes. Similar principles can be applied to enable rapid responses to features delivered in part or completely by software.
Not just revenue
Delivering consistently high-quality customer experience is the thread that links R&D efforts into the whole customer lifecycle. The focus must be on constant improvement of features and providing experiences that add to the performance and customer enjoyment of the vehicle. In addition, analysis of the usage of value-added features can of course highlight new revenue opportunities. In an increasingly digital and connected world, consumers of all types expect service levels, features and functionality to improve over time. Using vehicle data to understand how customers experience your product and brand is essential to meeting these expectations. Sometimes offering a new service or benefit through an update can make all the difference to reengaging and rekindling brand affinity. Using data to ensure all aspects of the vehicle are performing as expected also has important implications for safety of vehicle occupants and other road users.
Simple changes to increase your EV battery range
Matthew Gibbons is the Managing Director of Plug&Drive, a UK manufacturer and installer of electric vehicle charge points.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are rising in popularity, but one factor that puts many drivers off is ‘range anxiety’. Each model of EV has a specific range that the manufacturer claims it can travel before needing a recharge, but even some of the largest ranges aren’t deemed enough for some.
The truth is, EV battery range really doesn’t limit drivers much more than the fuel tank size on a petrol/diesel vehicle, so it shouldn’t be a deciding factor when making the switch to electric.
If you own and drive an EV, you may have noticed that your battery range fluctuates. Every journey is different, and although you may be driving the same number of miles, you might find that a certain route at a certain time of year uses more charge than others.
When you’re driving short distances, this isn’t too much of a concern, especially if you have a charge point installed at home for easy recharging. For longer journeys, where you may be less familiar with the accessible charge points in the area, conserving your battery range can be crucial. The good news is that there are a variety of methods you can utilise to extend the range of your EV.
There are a variety of factors that can impact an EVs battery range, such as:
- High and low temperatures
- Battery condition
Luckily, there are also a variety of methods for increasing your range!
Reduce the weight of the vehicle
Petrol and diesel vehicles tend to guzzle more petrol when they are weighed down, and EVs are the same, just with battery charge instead of fuel. If you are buying an EV brand new and made to order, consider selecting a more lightweight material for certain components, such as the wheels and seats.
If you decide to modify your EV in any way, consider how much weight you are adding to the vehicle. The heavier the vehicle, the more pressure is put onto the battery when driving, lowering the range. You should also try to keep the footwells, back seats and boot clear of unnecessary items that could be adding weight.
Protect the EV in extreme temperatures
Both cold and hot weather can impact an EVs battery. Cold weather is instantaneous, slowing down the chemical reactions in the battery and decreasing range. Hot weather has a more long-term effect, slowly degrading the battery.
If you have a garage to park your EV in, it’s advisable to do so when temperatures are at big highs or lows. If this isn’t an option, consider investing in a car cover to protect your EV from frost, and park your vehicle in a shaded spot if the weather is particularly warm.
Consider when to heat and cool the vehicle
Both AC and internal heating systems are very heavy on the battery. Most EVs have a pre-heat and pre-cool function that can be turned on before you head off on your journey. If your vehicle is charged at home, utilising these functions whilst the EV is plugged into the mains means that your car can be warmed or cooled prior to setting off, using none of the battery charge in the process.
Once on the road, using systems such as heated seats or heated steering wheel can add some extra heat to the interior, whilst putting much less pressure on the battery than the internal heating system. You can also open the windows to cool down the interior, but please note that driving at high speeds with the windows down can impact the aerodynamics of the vehicle, which leads nicely onto the next tip.
Maintain the aerodynamics of the vehicle
Most manufacturers will design their vehicles to be aerodynamic. The problem arises when vehicle owners decide to modify the exterior of their vehicles in some way. Extra components or attachments can increase wind resistance, putting more pressure on the battery when driving, so avoid adding any additional features that could impact the aerodynamics of your EV. Be cautious of driving at high speeds with the windows down, as this also has a negative impact on wind resistance, and in turn, battery range.
Efficient driving is a simple way to increase your battery range. Harsh acceleration and braking put more pressure on the battery, reducing its range. Try to maintain a steady speed, gradually slowing and speeding up. Excessive idling can also reduce the range, so if you’re able to plan a route that avoids heavy traffic areas, this is advised too.
Driving in eco mode puts much less pressure on the battery, so this can also increase the range of your vehicle.
Check and fill your tires regularly
The manufacturer-recommended PSI is the optimum pressure for your tires and vehicle. Having underinflated tires can cause increased resistance and pressure, draining your battery life quicker. Consider purchasing an air compressor to keep in your vehicle, for quick and easy top-ups to your tires on the go.
Utilise regenerative braking
Lots of EV models have regenerative braking, a system that recharges the battery slowly whenever the brake is pressed. Built-up, traffic-heavy areas can often drain your battery quicker, but regenerative braking can help extend your charge in these situations instead. This method is simple but effective – you most likely won’t even notice that regenerative braking is enabled, but you may well notice the increased range!
Refrain from fully charging your EV
Of course, charging your EV to 100% will provide the highest amount of miles. This is handy for long journeys but can be detrimental in the long run. The final 20% of charging is often slower, heating the battery more in the process. This can degrade the battery over time. Do not be deterred from charging to 100% if you need the full charge for your journey, or cannot regularly recharge, but if you have easy access to a charge point, charging to only 80% each time is recommended.
Some of these methods may only conserve a small amount of battery life, but on a long journey, every mile counts! Implementing a few, or all of these tips should give you a more than notable difference in your battery range, whilst maintaining the battery for a longer life span.
Looking for a used motorcycle – where to start?
When searching for a used motorcycle in the off-season, riders face a dilemma – where do you start? Social media marketplaces? Classified ads? Local dealerships? While it’s possible to get a good deal in any of these places, they all have their own pros and cons.
A professional’s advice may be critically important
Dealerships usually have a wide selection of used motorcycles and may even offer a warranty for some models. However, used motorcycle businesses mainly focus on newer, more expensive models, which may not be ideal for those looking for a first motorcycle. With that said, beginners often value dealerships because they offer more transparency than private sellers and even share valuable professional advice.
“A dealership may be the perfect place to look for motorcycles for beginners because their employees know the pros and cons of bikes they sell. Businesses that care about their reputation will provide sincere help and support for buyers who aren’t entirely sure what they want to buy,” explains Matas Buzelis, the Head of Communications at carVertical.
An option for riders trying to save a penny
If a rider doesn’t know what kind of motorcycle they want, a used motorcycle lot may be the answer. They offer affordable prices, and buyers can take a look at various motorcycles in one place.
However, buying a ride in a lot carries some risks, as it can be hard to evaluate its condition. Scams in the used motorcycle market are common and taking precautions is necessary. Checking a motorcycle’s history online is a good way to learn about its past damages and mileage rollbacks, helping to avoid bad deals.
If a motorcycle has suffered severe damage in the past, it’s best to skip such a deal, as it can be unsafe to drive.
Facebook marketplace: the Wild West of internet shopping
One can find anything from second-hand books to cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles on Facebook Marketplace. However, it’s also where buyers are the most likely to get scammed. Facebook Marketplace is full of fake accounts, and there’s no control over listings, so it’s important to be extremely careful when buying anything.
If somebody is selling an expensive motorcycle at a low price, it should be a red flag. Scammers often ask to wire them a reservation fee or pay the total amount in advance, which is a huge no-no. Facebook Marketplace is also full of cyber criminals who may hack any device and leave naive buyers penniless.
It’s best to meet a seller in person, carefully check all of the motorcycle’s documents, and inspect its vehicle history report to mitigate risks.
Online classifieds offer the widest selection
Online classifieds have the widest selection of listings, as both private sellers and businesses post their ads. Since most online classifieds websites perform at least some kind of user identification, it’s a safer option than Facebook Marketplace.
It’s best to buy a used motorcycle from an owner who has had it for several years. Such an owner will know more or less everything about their motorcycle and its maintenance, making it easier to plan future expenses. However, some private sellers buy and resell motorcycles – these sellers may not be as sincere about their true condition.
“There are two things buyers need to look for: a good motorcycle and an honest seller. Buyers should look for a well-preserved model which is being sold by its actual owner. It’s better to avoid buying a motorcycle from someone seeking to make a profit, as they may hide defects, mileage rollbacks, and other things,” explains Buzelis.
The year of the app: five transport predictions for 2023
Peter O’Driscoll, Managing Director, RingGo
In 2009 Apple trademarked the phrase “There’s an app for that” to showcase the growth of app availability on its iOS app marketplace. Since then, the app boom has revolutionised lifestyles and, over the space of a decade, apps have become commonplace and vital for daily functions, with downloadable technology on smartphones intrinsic to leisure, business, retail, and transport services.
Drilling down into transport, we can see that sweeping changes in app culture are impacting the way we travel. Traditionally transport has been commodity-based: you purchase a car to go from A to B. Now apps enable the servitisation of mobility, with solutions facilitating everything from e-mobility and ride-sharing, to practical features such as mapping, locating charging points, and paying for parking, all underpinned by data networks and simplified user experience.
Looking further ahead to 2027, Gartner predicts more than 50% of the global population will be daily active users of multiple super apps. These are platforms ‘like a Swiss army knife’ that house a variety of services in one ecosystem, deploying modular micro-apps for a personalised experience. With super apps, tapping on one icon will manage multiple aspects of your day, and the acceleration towards this new era of app technology demonstrates how deep the impact of apps has been so far.
With apps in mind, I am looking at the next 12 months to predict the ways transport will change for the better, the ways automation and technology will improve lives, and how apps will play an integral role in radically shifting the needle toward enhanced mobility.
- Smartphone technology will be engineered with all demographics in mind
Despite preconceptions of ageism, technology-enabled solutions are used by all types of drivers, with demographics across the nation taking advantage of technology’s benefits to convenience. Focusing specifically on the elderly, 9 in 10 (86%) UK pensioners believe smartphones make their lives significantly better according to OnePoll.
Almost two-thirds (64%) believed their depiction in media was either negative or ambivalent, while almost half (45%) have been made to feel frustrated (37%), silly (29%), or angry (27%) by younger people patronising their ability to use their phone. With this in mind, in 2023 I predict that more companies will take an inclusive approach when it comes to engineering technology for smartphones. This will involve ensuring that solutions cater to their needs with three user experience points in mind: accessibility, functionality, and mobility.
When planning journeys from A to B, and rounding off a route by paying for parking, drivers in the UK can expect to see improvements to practical usage and integration of technology in their daily lives.
- There will be more competition in the market and app choice for motorists
The opening of the market to competition outside of the confines of the traditional single-supplier model will begin to gather momentum, and this will mean a wider choice of preferred apps for motorists. In 2022, Open Market pilots in Manchester City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, using the DfT-funded National Parking Platform, showed that it is possible to have multiple providers competing at the same location, bringing more choice and reliability to consumers and councils alike. And now, new entrants that provide services outside of the parking ecosystem will come into play.
With motorists free to use their app of choice this will reduce costs to the motorist and increase digitisation. Evidence from Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (BCP), who made the move to multiple cashless parking providers in 2021, shows that digital penetration grew by more than 250% over 2 years with the introduction of multiple phone parking providers so app parking now accounts for more than 55% of all parking transactions. This is a trend that I expect to see grow, as more authorities adopt the Open Market construct.
- 3G sunsetting will increase reliance on app-based transport services
The unprecedented growth of 5G, outpacing 3G and 4G uptake, represents the quickest generational rollout for the mobile industry. As 5G is setting new standards of hyperfast connectivity and its star is rising, 3G is fading into obsolescence, which will cause trickle-down effects that mark significant changes in the way we park.
Network providers will be retiring band services, and as this happens hardware will be affected. In parking, chip and pin services for payment reliant on 3G modem hardware will stop working. 3G sunsetting presents challenges for physical payment methods, and potentially costly upgrades to machines to stay connected. Many people are still unaware of these changes, as 79% of people have no idea that the 3G network is being phased out, according to a 2020 survey.
App-based solutions will remain unaffected by network alterations, as these services rely on device connectivity to mobile networks across 4G, 5G, or IVR for those paying via phone call. Apps circumvent these challenges and I predict they will be more attractive to Councils and operators in 2023.
- Digitalisation positively impacting transport strategy for Councils and operators
The main dimension of the impact of digitalisation is around the end-user experience, but the advent of technological solutions also provides useful back-end data. For Councils and operators, with increased digitalisation comes more data points and information about vehicle types, emissions, and dwell times. Armed with this information authorities can use this data to make informed decisions around environmental policies and wider parking controls to make our cities more liveable and more manageable.
Trends in the transport industry are part of a moving picture, and how much is changed in this space is dependent on investment and strategy. Forward-thinking Councils and operators have already seen the benefits of harnessing technology advancements, as well as data-driven insights from Mobility-as-a-Service providers.
Progression of a data strategy is planned for the Government, as over 90% of senior civil servants will be upskilled on digital and data essentials, with learning embedded into performance and development standards, as part of the ‘Transforming for a digital future‘ policy. In 2023, on a local level, I hope to see continued progression of digitalisation ambitions, which will have noticeable and important impacts on the ground level, for the drivers who can take advantage of new transport developments.
- There will be a shift from manual to automatic services in transport
Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen some great examples of automatic solutions for transport in the UK, with automatic number plate recognition technology playing a part in optimising parking payments. As adoption continues, more drivers will be able to benefit from touch-free solutions.
When travelling into a town or city centre, it’s often the process that motorists would locate a space, and pay for parking via an app. Should the motorist need more time, they can potentially top up their parking session via extending on the app. Collaboration between parking providers and operators means that camera technology can completely automate the process and charges are calculated separate to manual management.
Automatic payment facilitates touch-free entry and exit to parking facilities, and solutions are being trialled in the UK currently. The parking transaction starts and ends completely autonomously, bypassing pay machines. In 2023 we will see an expansion of these high-quality technology solutions for drivers, allowing for new and exciting levels of convenience for urban travellers.
Looking at the horizon
In 2023 I believe we’ll see great strides made toward Mobility-as-a-Service models for motorists, with digital channels enabling better flow in transport. There will be more elements of disposability when moving from A to B, and transport service providers will look at becoming holistic one-stop shops. The popularity of the likes of Uber and Lime attests to the fact that mindsets are already shifting towards service-based transport.
Within the microcosm of parking, providers are linking up mobility services for motorists using apps, and there will be scope to manage a journey in its entirety from one point of contact; mapping, location, payment, and charging services can be housed in one space. We’re also seeing app-based services create actionable data streams for Councils and operators to improve transport management in local areas. These benefits are ticks in the pro column for choosing apps, as they herald an age for more liveable towns and cities.