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Connected cars give way to the software-defined car

Chris Teague

Chris Teague

connected cars

Your next car may be a lot like your phone. That’s the message we’re getting from major automakers as they lay out their visions for the future of the automobile. Apps, subscription services, and advanced connectivity functions are already here in connected cars, but they’re about to become a much more prominent part of your daily driver.

connected cars

Hyundai is the latest manufacturer to jump on this train with what it calls Software Defined Vehicles. To start, this means over-the-air Hyundai software updates, but the automaker plans to offer subscription features beginning next year that “gives customers the ability to select and purchase functions and features that meet their needs and tastes.” The selling point is that creating software-rich vehicles opens the door to more customized experiences for owners. Hyundai says it will use the data it gathers from 20 million vehicles to develop new features over time.

Depending on where you stand on the tech adopter spectrum, this could be exciting or highly annoying, but for Hyundai and other automakers, the move creates new revenue streams. The Korean auto giant says it plans to simplify vehicle development and share parts across its brands, making the software portion of the experience more important.

What this means for you

Again, you may be excited about having a screen take over your driving experience, but the shift will bring headaches for many – even those who own and adore their brand-new tech-heavy EVs. The purchase price of a car isn’t viewed in the same way that smartphones and computers are. People expect to buy software and upgrades for phones and the like, but a car purchase is kind of the end of the road for spending. Sure, there’s maintenance and other things like tires and cleaning, but once you’ve paid for the car, it’s yours.

connected cars

A shift to subscription-based or added-cost services is significant and will require a fundamental change in how we view cars. The vehicle itself may become less critical as user profiles and the accompanying software take over. That sounds like the direction Hyundai is taking, but it’s far from the first.

Tesla has done this to great effect, releasing new functionality and capability through software updates or subscriptions. The company’s Full Self-Driving and Enhanced Autopilot functions are great examples, as both require a significant additional payment on top of the purchase price to unlock. Tesla buyers can also unlock upgraded connectivity features with a $9.99 monthly or $99 annual fee.

Even if you end up buying a new car with extensive subscription and add-on options, you’ll be able to drive and use the vehicle without all the bells and whistles, all the time. Love it or hate it, though, you’ll likely end up wanting one or more of the features, so brace yourself because the automotive world is changing.

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