Dash CEO: Why Auto Companies Can’t Make Connected Car Software

Connected car technology seems to be having its moment in the headlights. Last year, only 8% of executives rated connected car technology as an “extremely important” trend; today, that number has surged to 50%. But to Jamyn Edis, the phrase “connected car” has become an overly vague buzzword.

“People throw around the term, but they don’t define it,” said Edis, who created smart driving app Dash in 2012. “Is the vehicle connected to a phone? To a network? To infrastructure? Those are all very different experiences.”

In the same way as a Fitbit tracks your daily movement, Dash uses your smartphone to inform you about your driving habits — when you’re speeding, when you press the brakes too hard — and vehicle condition. The software creates what Edis calls the “automotive graph,” a set of driving data that can be leveraged by anyone from insurance companies and manufacturers to users themselves.

We spoke with Edis to see where he thinks the industry is heading:

While most car manufacturers have released apps connecting vehicles and smartphones, L2’s Digital IQ Index®: Auto finds that they’re often short on basic functionalities. For example, only one in four Auto brand apps lets you start your car from your phone. Why do you think that’s the case?

The problem is that it’s not in car companies’ DNA to do great software development. Having an app is a cute thing they can talk about in their marketing, but the actual product is terrible. These companies focus on selling cars. They don’t think they’ll make much money from an app.

What do you think consumers are looking for in terms of those functionalities?

Remote start, remote unlock, the ability to preheat in the cold — people say they want these things in surveys, but it’s not something they want to pay for. Are you really going to start fumbling with the app or just get your keys out?

We haven’t spent too much on the control part because we don’t think there’s a market for it. Instead, we’re focusing on questions like: how often do you have to service your vehicle? Where did you park last?

Switching gears a bit, how do you see the future of the auto space?

Mercedes, Ford, Toyota — they all have their own platforms. They can’t talk to one another. Now we’re seeing a trend toward more open-platform vehicles, with features powered by Google or Apple around navigation, musical entertainment, messaging.

There’s a lot of talk about electrical vehicles and autonomous driving. Tesla is a super exciting car, very sexy — but at less than .1% of the market, it’s a long way from changing the landscape. And autonomous driving — even Google admits it’s 20 to 25 years away from mainstream adoption. There are a lot of technical hurdles. Right now these vehicles can’t even tell if a road has snow on it.

What about consumers? Are they ready for autonomous cars?

No, I don’t think they are. There’s a lot of excitement about the autonomous car, but people don’t really know what it is yet. And not everyone wants to be driven around by a car. Some people want to get that macho feeling from stepping on the gas themselves.

Article originally published in L2 Daily by Elisabeth Rosen (@elsrosen)

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