The Connected Car: a Q&A with Metova CTO Andrew Cowart

As a followup to a recent survey of over 1,000 consumers revealing trends including high adoption of connected vehicles and favorable sentiment on car technology, we ask Andrew Cowart, CTO at Metova, about the connected car landscape, how wearable technology can be used and more. To view an infographic for the survey, click HERE.


As a strategic tech service provider and knowing over half of consumers own new cars, what can industries do to take advantage of this?

The key for a company looking to take advantage of connected vehicles is determining whether your company is a fit. Do you provide a service or information that would be useful to someone in a car, whether that be the driver or passengers? Some common themes we see from companies that do well in connected vehicles are music or audio playback, weather, mapping, location-based services, applications with strong speech-to-text abilities, and (for passengers) entertainment applications.


How do wearables come in to play?

Wearables really shine in being an always-present accessory that you know will be physically on the end user. We’ve seen wearables work well in determining whether individuals are present. For example, if a driver, Joe, commonly wears an Apple Watch when he’s in the car — it’s possible to detect the presence of that watch and take actions based on that, change settings, etc.

The newest cars coming out have even more integration points available. Some of the features that we’ve worked with include the ability to remotely start the car from your watch, remotely unlock or lock your doors, and set it to “valet mode”. With electric cars, you can check your “fuel” level and get an idea of your range, all while being away from your car.

On newer cars, with self-driving functionality coming out, I’d expect wearable integration to become even better, including features such as summoning your car to come pick you up from its parking space. The wearable would be able to identify your exact position and send that to the car for tracking purposes.


How can parents take advantage of this tech?

Apps are getting smarter in taking advantage of connected cars. On Android, for example, there are applications that can allow you to lock your children’s phone when they’re driving. Some of these applications are getting smarter now, and recognizing the presence of your child’s own car via the bluetooth connection – ensuring they can still use their phones when they’re a passenger with a friend, but not when they’re driving.

One of the biggest things parents may be interested in is the concept of “geofencing”, which is the ability to set an area up on a map, and take actions when the vehicle enters or exits the area. Using geofencing, it would be possible to get an alert whenever the car leaves home — and, using something like a paired watch that you own, it’d be possible to only get those alerts when the car leaves home without you.

Speed alerts are another good example. The wealth of information available to developers now includes such details as the speed limits on the majority of the roads in the United States. By tapping into this, parents will be able to get notifications when their children are driving and go significantly over any posted speed limits.


What sort of language is used in creating apps for the car. Are some easier than others?

There’s a few different routes that companies can go down when creating connected vehicle applications. The most common applications that consumers will see nowadays are written using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, and serve as an extension of a mobile application. For applications that work well in a vehicle, Metova has also worked with vehicle manufacturers to write the apps in a modified version of Android that’s specific to the OEM.


Do you own a connected vehicle?

I personally drive a Scion iQ, which isn’t quite the smallest car on the market, but it’s pretty close. I was personally excited that this car had Bluetooth, which was a feature I’ve been lacking on previous vehicles.

While not a true “connected vehicle”, by using an app called “Tasker”, I can actually have my car take some automatic actions when I start it up. When I enter my car and start it up, Tasker detects the bluetooth connection to my vehicle, starts playing my favorite driving station on Slacker Radio, changes my notification settings, ups my screen brightness, and turns off wifi for the drive. After I shut my car down, my phone resets to how it was before.


How can firmware updates improve even older vehicles through software updates?

The nice thing about connected vehicles is that they are essentially small computers running in cars, with software that runs all of the connected software. That software can be updated to add new features, either over-the-air or through visiting the dealership and having them load it up. This lets new software, stuff that didn’t even exist when the cars originally came out, still work well natively on connected vehicles.