As COVID-19 begins to influence the technologies that are embedded into vehicles, car manufacturers should focus on four specific areas to help lessen the risk of infection to car occupants, according to Gartner, Inc. These areas include disinfection, possible detection of contagion and maintaining social distancing.
“The new normal set by COVID-19 will clearly influence how people travel,” says Pedro Pacheco, senior research director at Gartner. “The fear of infection is starting to drive some travellers away from public transport placing a greater emphasis on private cars and shared mobility services. However, even within these, individuals want reassurance against contagion and several technologies are being put in place in response to that need.”
Automotive CIOs should work with internal and external technology partners to incorporate technologies across four areas that help lessen the risk of the COVID-19 infection to car occupants.
Ultraviolet C (UVC) lights in the car cabin can be used to disinfect several frequent-touch surfaces. The existing plastic and glass surfaces in the car can also be replaced by anti-microbial plastics and glass to reduce the possibility of contagion from drivers and passengers touching cabin surfaces. This disinfection can also be done through a heat cycle, where the car’s climate control can heat up the cabin for a long period to reduce the amount of microbial contamination.
Cabin Air Purification
Car manufacturers can install plasma air purifiers that can filter air impurities down to PM2.5, which is considered adequate to combat germs and pollution. In-car plasma air purifiers are something relatively common in several Asian countries, which means the technology is ready for adoption. Use of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can also filter germ airborne particles in the cabin when climate control is set for air recirculation making it safer for passengers.
Connected Car Functionalities
Automated door locks and engine start/stop actions via mobile applications can reduce surface contact inside the vehicle. Mobile applications can be used for car sales and after-sale contactless services, such as test drive, dealership vehicle servicing, roadside assistance, home maintenance service and vehicle home delivery.
“Contactless payment is another connected car application allowing passengers to pay while sitting inside the car, reducing the risk of exposure to infectants,” said Mr. Pacheco.
Human Machine Interface
The use of an effective voice assistant can reduce contact with cabin surfaces. Emotional artificial intelligence (AI) can make the interaction between passengers and the vehicle more personalized and at the same time help in early detection of symptoms. For example, emotion AI could detect visible symptoms in passengers such as cough and fever and notify the driver.
The pandemic has brought focus to implementation of hygiene measures and technologies that can help reduce the risk of infection. “Car manufacturers can use these technologies to attract more buyers, given that health is one of the top priorities of all individuals,” said Mr. Pacheco.