Mention the “Internet of Cars,” and most people probably think of the self-driving vehicle. Technology companies and automakers are getting close to it. Tesla recently announced that its Model S will soon drive itself. Mercedes expects its F 015 self-driving car to be road-ready in a not too distant future.

But the Internet of Cars goes much further than vehicles driving themselves. The opportunity is to develop practical “connected vehicle” innovations that can be applied directly to the bottom line sooner rather than later.

As consumers worldwide continue to embrace smartphones, the mobile Internet, Web-based content and connected vehicles, automotive-focused companies have new opportunities to interact effectively and in differentiated ways with customers during the before, during and after the sale of a car.

Gartner forecasts that by 2020, 70 percent of all auto-related customer interactions will be digital. These interactions will lead to new digital business models for existing and new services. For example, connected vehicle technologies will soon enable drivers to request real-time service, product and pricing information from automakers, dealers and other companies. Your car may be able to give you pricing information or set up an appointment with a dealer all while driving to work. For automakers and dealers, this represents a valuable new service model that can help keep customers in the fold.

Millions of digitally connected vehicles

The Internet of Cars will have significant and lasting implications for the automotive industry and will lead to the renaissance of the automobile as the ultimate mobile and connected device.

By 2020, the number of connected passenger vehicles on the road in use will be about 150 million; more than two-thirds of them will be capable of consuming, creating and sharing Web-based data. For automakers that number means not just millions of connected vehicles, but millions of connected drivers and ultimately connected customers.

When viewed through the eyes of those consumers, a big, game-changing opportunity comes into view: offering drivers and passengers an in-car digital experience that goes well beyond traditional applications and expands to other Internet of Things-centric forms of consumer value, including mobility solutions, mobile payment and automation such as car-to-home integration.

Over the next 15 years, the Internet of Cars will continue to have fundamental implications for automotive companies and many other industries..

Thilo Koslowski is vice president, distinguished analyst at Gartner with focus on automotive, vehicle ICT and smart mobility.

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