For the longest time, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, majority owned by Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp, has been behind competitors in connected car technology. A drive that began two years ago to change that image is gathering momentum at India’s largest carmaker.
While it does not want to take its eyes off the mass market — one out of two cars bought in India is a Maruti — the company is exploring more in the connected cars space, a segment, which has heated up since Uber, Apple, Google, Honda, among others have showcased concepts.
Maruti is studying the market, getting a feel of what the consumers want, and at what price some of these technologies can be brought to its mass-market distribution.
Maruti is studying the connected cars market, getting a feel of what the consumers want, and at what price some of these technologies can be brought to its mass-market distribution
“The key question is what is value for the customer in this connected car eco-system, and the other question is what are the value-added-services that are possible,” said C V Raman, executive director (engineering) at Maruti Suzuki.
The whole idea, Raman said, is to see what is available on or what can be connected to the mobile phone and whether it makes sense to put some of that tech in the cars. To be sure, Maruti Suzuki already has Apple Car Play in some of its top models.
The company is studying viability of having an emergency calling feature, which would connect the car and its passengers to a trauma centre, police station or the fire brigade, in case of an accident or a crash.
It is also examining features, which would give real-time updates on speed of the car, quality of the drive, among others — which can come handy if the driver is picking up your child from school or a car ferrying office staff is running late. These updates will be sent to a mobile phone.
“The key question is what is value for the customer in this connected car eco-system, and the other question is what are the value-added-services that are possible” — C V Raman, executive director (engineering) at Maruti Suzuki
“People want everything to be connected, the vehicle, the home…,” said Raman, who added that the beginning of this eco-system had already started with the connected infotainment system, which are already there in the cars.
Maruti Suzuki is also studying if it is possible to connect the engine management system to a connected device, which will allow to get updates on status of engine, any possible wear-and-tear, or malfunction, and help predict and prevent a breakdown.
“There can be integration with the engine management system, which will then send the data. To make that data relevant is the biggest challenge… But if things can be worked out, you can get a service call of any malfunction or any safety issue, which has otherwise not been detected,” said Raman.
Experts believe that it is the need of the hour for carmakers to step up their technology game
Experts believe that it is the need of the hour for carmakers to step up their technology game. “Maruti does not want to be perceived as a carmaker that lags in technology — some of it is showcasing the tech-enablement, and some of it is how the consumer demand of a car is changing,” said Amit Kaushik, managing director (India) of Detroit, US consultancy firm Urban Science.
Honda has Honda Connect, which it has built in partnership with IBM. Globally, Ford has acquired Livio to get a foothold in the connected cars. Nissan and BMW is integrating Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana in their cars. Audi is working with Nvidia and Hyundai is also building its own connected cars.
But, everything comes as a cost. That is Raman’s biggest worry. Of course, it’s easier to have these features in a premium car at a higher price. “Then there is the cost — how affordable is the technology, and how to take it to the masses. We are looking at all possible opportunities,” said the Maruti engineering head.
Subscribe to FactorDaily
Our daily brief keeps thousands of readers ahead of the curve. More signals, less noise.
Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures and Vijay Shekhar Sharma among its investors. Accel Partners is an early investor in Flipkart. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. None of FactorDaily’s investors have any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.