The interactive, music and film conferences collectively known as South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas each March has emerged over a quarter-century-plus as a must-attend technology and cultural event. Approximately 80,000 people converge at SXSW over nine days, turning Austin’s small downtown into a milieu of innovative ideas, indie-movie screenings and cutting-edge musical performances, typically mixed with rounds of Shiner Bock beer, piles of Texas BBQ and a unique and low-key Hill Country vibe.
SXSW 2015 was also the site of the C3 Group’s second-annual Connected Car Pavilion held during the Interactive portion of “SX” on March 14. With technology becoming an increasingly crucial part of automotive and the future of transportation, SXSW provided an ideal setting for C3 to drive the conversation on the connected car and mobility. And this year’s C3 Connected Car Pavilion provided a perfect platform for the key players to showcase the movement’s latest advancements and for thought leaders to discuss the potential and challenges facing this rapidly evolving space.
The 2015 Connected Car Pavilion featured nearly twice the number of connected vehicle demonstrations from the previous year, helping to gain the attention of the tech media, who ranked the Pavilion as one of the top trending tech events of SXSW for the second year in a row. Delphi showed the industry’s first autonomous vehicle to execute a coast-to-coast trip, while Hyundai demonstrated advanced smartwatch integration via their Blue Link connectivity platform. Beating automakers to market, Pioneer demoed both the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto infotainment platforms. And Visteon showed their updated 4G LTE Connected Vehicle Hub that enables over-the-air software updates and a heightened level of data security.
More technology demonstrations were held in the courtyard of the venue, including the U.S. Department of Transportation showing its vehicle-to-infrastructure communications development. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were demonstrated by Detroit Aircraft, and the company announced its work to integrate UAVs into Africa for humanitarian purposes. And Nuance Communications showed its advanced voice biometrics capabilities, which further personalizes the connected car experience through voice recognition and programming of preferences such as navigation route, music choice, calendar, fuel choices and much more.
In opening the Connected Car Pavilion conference program, C3 Group President Doug Newcomb commented on the disruptive and transformative moment being experienced in automotive and transportation, brought about by technology. “In any transformation, there will be plenty of roadblocks and detours,” Newcomb explained. “As we amass the huge amount of data from connected cars, automakers need to concern themselves with consumer data privacy.
“Connecting both new and existing vehicles with V2V and V2I communication, we must consider the development of infrastructure necessary to enable this network,” he added. “All stakeholders, including city, state and federal officials as well as researchers, automakers and technology companies, must work together to bring the benefits of these technologies to governments, municipalities and ultimately consumers.”
The conference program for this year’s event attracted top transportation policymakers, beginning with an informative and timely keynote address by NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. An innovative tone was set by Dr. Rosekind that explored the many roles of technology in automotive safety, both today and in the future. “We have recently determined through our research that in 94 percent of cases the critical element in the chain of events before a crash is the human driver,” said Dr. Rosekind. “Technology offers a huge potential in mitigating this statistic.”
The program included a discussion of how connected transportation will transform cities, followed by a panel on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to improve transportation efficiencies. The program also addressed autonomous vehicles and the next steps needed to make self-driving cars a reality, and how vehicle-to-vehicle communication will be a major breakthrough in advanced safety and traffic management technology.
In closing, the program tackled driver data security and privacy and featured participation by FTC Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen and her remarks on consumer protection in the digital world. “The FTC, being a consumer protection agency, is interested in what type of data is being collected and what are the specific benefits to consumers,” stated Commissioner Ohlhausen.
“People have legitimate concerns over the collection of sensitive information, including precise geo-location, biometrics and particular driver behavior,” she added. “We want to put mechanisms into place that ensure respect for the context of consumer data and make sure that consumers have tools and information that will help them protect themselves. We are working on breach notification legislation with the House Energy and Commerce Committees that will move us toward that end.”
The Connected Car Pavilion and conference program caught the attention of the media at SXSW, generating more than 150 syndicated articles and features in outlets including USA Today, Detroit News, Entrepreneur, San Jose Mercury News, Associated Press, Financial Post, Inc.com, CBS, MSN, Christian Science Monitor, Mashable, Austin NBC TV affiliate KXAN and many more.
Perhaps the best aspect of SXSW Interactive is that it gives attendees a glimpse of what’s next in tech. The C3 Connected Car Pavilion not only demonstrated the future of automotive, but showed how advanced mobility will improve lives for generations to come and some of the steps needed to achieve these benefits.
Look for a series of future C3 Report posts that include video highlights of the C3 Connected Car Pavilion, an audio program of each panel discussion as well as NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind’s full keynote address.