Your Next Car May Anticipate Your Needs
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Your Next Car May Anticipate Your Needs

Automakers are developing intelligent vehicles that spot motorists’ wants and let them subscribe to options after the sale.

By WILLIAM BOSTON
Thu, Jul 8, 2021Grey Clock 3 min

The next time you buy a car and fret about whether or not to splurge on that snazzy new feature, fear not: Chances are you’ll be able to download it later.

In the past, the ordeal of deciding which features you could afford and which you could live without may have been painful and time-consuming, mainly because you would be stuck with whatever suite of options you chose until the time came to buy another car.

Those days are quickly fading as cars morph from vehicles to get around town to artificial intelligence-enabled, smartphone-like connected devices packed with software for work and play. In the near future, cars won’t only be able to constantly update and adapt to situations months and years after the time of purchase, they will be able to use AI to anticipate the needs of drivers and passengers and tailor their offerings accordingly. This also has the potential to create a new business model for automakers, with car owners paying on-demand fees or monthly subscriptions to get access to new features.

Automakers like General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Volkswagen AG , BMW AG and Mercedes-Benz are shifting from banging metal to software-centred design with which they hope to make money even after they have sold you the car.

Tesla Inc. has been doing this for years. Early on, it took control of the software development process, from chip design to AI systems. The company is already collecting huge amounts of data from customer vehicles that it uses to improve the car’s systems through over-the-air updates, which automatically and remotely update the car’s software, just like with a smartphone. Tesla offers subscriptions for what it calls “Premium Connectivity,” which covers things like video streaming and live traffic visualization. Chief Executive Elon Musk has raised the possibility that Tesla could offer its advanced driver-assistance package as a subscription but has not launched that yet.

Older automakers are following Tesla’s lead. Many have created in-house software operations to catch up. A Volkswagen division is developing core software for the company’s vehicles and aims to have a system in place with advanced autonomous functionality by 2025.

 “The question is whether people are willing to pay,” says Axel Schmidt, head of global automotive at the consulting firm Accenture. “Are you willing to pay $2 so the car finds you a parking spot instead of circling around for half an hour to find it yourself?”

If the smartphone experience holds lessons, analysts say, it is that people do take advantage of the opportunity to allow technology to help them personalize their experiences. Inside the car, digital assistants and sensors that observe passengers allow the car to learn about them and adapt to their routines.

Automakers are also taking a page from Apple Inc.’s playbook, using the car’s software to establish a profile of the user that, just like the Apple ID, would allow that person to carry his or her profile to other vehicles, even when car-sharing. Automakers have already paired customer IDs with their digital offerings, but in the future the ID will be a key that unlocks a person’s preferences from seat position and driving style to music playlists and navigation histories, accessible in any car. This will become a big driver of shared mobility, analysts say.

“In shared mobility you will be able to port your mobile world,” says Mark Wakefield, global co-leader of consulting firm AlixPartners’ automotive practice. “Even things like sound isolation where you can be in a [vehicle] with other people and you can’t hear them, you only hear your own music.”

Subscription features aren’t limited to personal preferences. Data generated in traffic in real time could also be turned into a business, making certain information available for paying customers.

A host of safety and advanced navigation features could come standard or available with a premium subscription as cars become more connected and exchange real-time information directly, instead of routing the data through a cloud, says Giovanni Lanfranchi, chief technology officer of Here Technologies, a digital mapping company owned by a group of big auto makers.

Here is working on a pilot project that uses car-to-car communication to predict traffic situations just five minutes ahead, using AI and machine learning to achieve up to 95% accuracy.

“This is something that only a machine can understand,” he says. “I’m learning about you to offer a better experience.”

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: July 7, 2021

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New research from Knight Frank’s International Waterfront Index shows waterfront properties are costing more than double their inland counterparts in Sydney while in Melbourne waterside properties attract a 40% premium.

Australia’s coastline attracts some of the highest waterfront premiums in the world with Sydney topping the index — an average premium of 121% — compared to an equivalent home set away from the water.

Auckland ranked second on the list of 17 international locations — a premium of 76%. The list saw Gold Coast (71%), Perth (69%) and the Cap d’Antibes (59%) on the French Riviera round out the top 5.

Australia continued to feature prominently in the research with Brisbane’s waterfront premium coming in at 55%, with Melbourne also in the top 10 at 39%.

According to Knight Frank Australia’s head of residential research, Michelle Ciesielski, there has always been strong appetite for Sydney’s waterfront homes.

Australia’s luxury residential market has advanced, it lacks the depth of prestige markets in more established global cities said Cieselski.

“As a result, our Australian cities can achieve a significantly higher premium on the waterfront compared to a similar property inland without access to, or a view of, water,” she said.

“Also, Australia is known for its balmy outdoor lifestyle, so many buyers in this super-prime space are willing to pay a premium to secure the ideal position along the waterfront.”

The data also suggests that beachfront homes were most desirable, commanding a premium of 63% compared to harbour locations fetching 62% premium and coastal homes with a 40% premium.